Restart Center for rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture work and live in Beirut. Their aim is to erase torture practices in Lebanon. Since 1996, Restart Center has been extending its efforts in supporting the cause of Victims of Violence and Torture and it has furthered its goals to a strengthened assistance to vulnerable and traumatized children, prisoners and ex-prisoners, children with special needs as well as refugees. The set of comprehensive field interventions range from direct aid to capacity-building and advocacy action; involving both state and non-state actors, with the support of a diverse group of partners and donors.
Beirut was on August 4, 2020 struck by an explosion at the Beirut Port, claiming hundreds of lives, and left many bereaved families traumatized. Many of the grieving families have experienced trauma earlier in their life; having fled war-torn countries and endured suffering and torture. These families are clients at the Restart Center and are now struggling to cope with the aftermath of the explosion and re-traumatization. The staff at the center have been working day and night to provide the affected people with food, clothes and psychosocial support. With their own lives affected, they are showing unlimited compassion for the people and are helping anyone that comes their way; knowing how trauma can ruin lives.
The story, kindly provided by Restart Center, is just one story out of many, showing how staff are helping survivors in their journey to recovery.
It is said that the pain of losing a child knows no equal. A pain that many parents in Beirut suffered from minutes, hours, days, or weeks after the Beirut Port Explosion. Of the 190 lives that were lost in the aftermath of the 4th of August 2020, many left behind grieving parents. Parents whose lives were forever changed.
This is the story of one such parent: a mother who lost her son. A mother who woke up on the 4th of August unaware that hours later she would be hearing of her son’s passing. A mother who arrived in Lebanon on an emergency flight, via military airplane, not to visit her son, but to bury him.
Moments after the explosion, a trembling mother, miles away in Jordan, repeatedly calls her neighbors in Lebanon hoping they can check in on her son. She could sense that something had befallen him – her “mother’s intuition” had kicked in. The pain that knows no equal was knocking on her heart’s door. Finally, she received some news about her son, but it was not welcomed: he was injured and in critical condition. Two hours later, she received the tragic news of her son’s passing and this mother’s world would no longer be the same.
This is the story a mother told a social worker from Restart Center, when the team knocked on her relative’s door for a home visit. A mother and her sister sit side by side, the emotional toll visible on their faces. Their drooping shoulders and closed posture bear the weight of an unbearable loss. Writhing with anger, she called them out for their cowardice, saying “they hide in their homes, doing nothing to help, while your kids are out here supporting and carrying our burdens.” The mother trembled as she spoke, but it was difficult to say whether it was her anger or her Parkinson’s Disease. She paused, looked at the team, and her expression changed slightly, before she said, “I am so grateful that you paid me a visit”.
Continuing her conversation with the social worker, she said, “I am so grateful that you paid me a visit… I want to go home now; my son is waiting for me.” This surprised the social worker at first, before she realized that this woman was clearly in denial. In this mother’s world, her son is still alive. Her son is still able to smile, laugh, talk, and breathe. In her world, her son is still at home, waiting for her to visit him after the explosion, and sit by his side as he recovers.
Unfortunately, her now shattered reality does not mirror her world. Her son was a victim of a crime of negligence. The failure of corrupt authorities, who were meant to protect her son, led to him paying the ultimate price. However, she could not bring herself to accept that. How could she? No words are enough to soothe a mother into a reality that she must now wake up to a world where her son is no longer in.
The social worker knew this, and she found it truly challenging to remain strong and supportive in the face of the mother’s denial. She was overcome with sadness as she sat by the mother’s side and watched her scroll through photos of the devastation on her phone. Photos that tell a horrific story of rubble and blood – her son’s blood splattered on the floor and the walls. Photos that capture a tormenting memory no parent wishes to recall. It was no wonder that the mother could not accept her son’s passing. For what did they leave for her to remember him by? An empty home in a destroyed neighborhood? The team’s hearts broke listening to this mother repeatedly say she wants to go home to her son.
The team were committed to supporting her journey of recovery, and it took considerable effort from them not to go against her family’s wishes and recommend that the mother ‘go see her son’. They knew that the mother deserved to accept the truth that her son is gone. They knew that she needed to face her reality, to open her eyes to a world where her son can no longer sit with her, talk to her, hug her. She deserves to grieve the son that was taken from her too soon, which cannot happen in denial. For now, they held back and did what they could to ease her suffering. They told her that they will try to secure medication for her condition, which she had had difficulty finding. They also tried to offer her psychological first aid, but she refused. She wanted one thing at that moment, to go home to her son. A request that was not theirs at the time to fulfill.
“Please, let me go home… I want to see my son”