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One terrible day when Sandy*, 4, was being babysat by her grandfather, he was brutally murdered. Sandy’s distress was overwhelming, and her parents didn’t know how to help.

Sandy had always been a happy little girl

Sandy’s happy childhood was turned upside down in an instant when her grandfather was murdered while he babysat her.

As the deadly assault by his neighbour took place, Sandy hid in her grandfather’s bedroom, petrified. She was then on her own for over an hour until the police arrived at the scene.

Sandy no longer felt safe in her world

After Sandy witnessed her grandfather’s murder she seemed to lose all hope and became very anxious. She was often violent, with angry outbursts against her parents and playmates.

Sandy now found it impossible to trust anyone, including her kinder teachers. She didn’t want to play, regressed in her skills like toilet training and had to repeat kinder.

She also worried about her little brother’s safety, and was often beside him, trying to protect him.

How did Sandy’s healing journey unfold?

Twelve months after Sandy’s grandfather was killed, her distress was worse than ever.

Then, her parents had a phone call that would transform their little girl’s world…

It was Janis*, an Alannah & Madeline Foundation case worker in our Children Ahead program. Thanks to donations from our supporters, she can provide children with intensive therapeutic support to heal.

The first sessions with Janis were so hard for Sandy. She was afraid strangers would hurt her, so she would talk to Janis sitting inside a closed, dark cupboard in her bedroom – the only place she felt safe.

Janis played fun games with Sandy to build trust, so the healing journey could begin.

Incredible transformation

Over time, as Sandy became more comfortable and trusting in her relationship with her case worker, she came out of the cupboard to begin to show Janis her world. She even showed her pet guinea pigs to Janis proudly!

After nine months of therapy, Janis began to gently bring up memories of Sandy’s grandfather to help her process the loss.

Even though she was so young, Sandy was still dealing with guilt and shame: she felt she should have done something to save her grandfather that day.

Janis helped Sandy find ways to keep happy memories of her grandfather alive - a momentous step in this little girl’s healing!

Today Sandy is thriving

Wonderfully, after 13 months of intensive therapeutic support, Sandy no longer needs to see her Children Ahead case worker Janis. Her distress is significantly reduced, and she is feeling safer every day!

Sandy recently enjoyed her first year of primary school, she’s feeling less anxious, and can’t wait for an upcoming beach holiday with her family.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.