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18 Jul 2005

DEPRESSED 14 YEAR OLD HURTING HERSELF
Dear Doc

My 14 year old neice's father passed away when she was 3 years old. Her mother (my sister) was 23 when he died (she married when she was 18). My mom and dad then took care of my neice when my sister re-married 5 years after he died. She now has a daughter. My neice is well taken care of both materially and physically. Her mother visits all the time and they keep in constant contact. She is a straight "A" student. We assumed everything was well but she has not been sleeping well for a few months and we wondered why, she wouldn't say. A few days ago she eventually told us that she has been having nightmares of my mom and dad being dead. What worries me is that she cut herself badly on her hands. When we asked her, she initally said that she fell. She also says that she misses that mother-daughter bond. Whenever she feels this way she gets angry and she wants to hurt herself. She says that she feels envious and angry when she sees other families together. Please help cause she is like my own and I love her with all my heart. I cannot bear to see her like this.
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Expert
CyberShrink
cybershrink

01 Jan 0001

When one is younger, one may not really realize what death is ( such as not recognizing it as permanent, or as something that eventually happens to everyone ) ; so as she has matured, and as, for various reasons, she comes to feel dependent on the people who care for her, she may have started to feear the idea that they could die, and worry about who then would look after her. If you'll check the archives of this Forum, we have often discussed self-cutting behaviour, and when it arises, it is often in this context of a fear of abandonment. It is unusual, though, in someone quite as young as 14. The child should see a counsellor, for assessment and some sessions to help her understand her situation and come to terms with it, and to help her feel more secure.
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