She would draw lots of pictures with loads of bright colours but they were quite basic compared to what other children of her age can do.
She would press on her pens so hard that the paper would tear and it looked to me that her fierce colouring of the vague shapes allowed her to empty her head and the feelings she had deep inside.
She used the splurges of colour with no visible human shape to conjure up the image of the terrible thing that had happened to her brother. They represented something specific that I tried to understand through a question and answer game, sort of riddles, in order to secure our therapeutic relationship.
She was quite happy to let me into her world, but in her own time, so I had to move forward very slowly and respect the immense suffering expressed in her drawings. She would answer my questions about her pictures with a nod of the head and sometimes with laconic words spoken so softly I had difficulty in hearing them. She would press on her pens so hard that the paper would tear and it looked to me that her fierce colouring of the vague shapes allowed her to empty her head and the feelings she had deep inside.
At the end of each session, she was quite happy to give me her picture, to leave it with me, as if this was a way for her to lighten the suffering she had cast aside in it. But she wanted something to take away in exchange, a small toy, a trinket... maybe to fill the gap that was eating away at her, or maybe because ours really was a relationship of sharing and give-and-take! During our sessions she would offer up her anguish like a gift, a difficult and painful process that she needed encouragement with. And at the age of only six, it took real courage...
This was several months ago now and her mother is alive and with her. The little girl has no physical injuries, but her wounds are invisible and ever-present.
Charlotte wrote this post at the end of 2013. In January 2014, five our colleagues were taken in Syria and we had to suspend all communications around the conflict for their safety. Now, our staff are safe and back home with their families. We are publishing Charlotte's blog, and others from Syria and surrounding countries, retrospectively as we feel their stories should be shared.