With Support, Teen Overcomes Grief and Anger
To this day, whenever he closes his eyes, Malik can see the flashes of neon red and blue through his curtains on the night his life was forever changed. Like a thousand lightning strikes, the police car’s glow illuminated his childhood bedroom. And though the night featured a clear and starlit sky, his mother’s cries roared through the home like thunder.
Malik was 8 years old, and a steady knock had awakened him and his parents at 3 o’clock in the morning on an otherwise uneventful Tuesday in July. Malik’s father crept to the door, peeked through the window, and noticed two policemen on their front steps, their faces somber.
Malik remembers the shakiness in his father’s voice as he called for Malik’s mother, and the way his mother’s shadow raced past his door. In an instant, a storm of sorrow and grief settled onto their home. Malik stayed in bed. He waited to be shaken from the blissful ignorance that cloaked him like a warm blanket.
“I was so young, but at that moment I knew something was wrong. And I knew it was about my brother,” Malik said. “I didn’t get up to go see what was wrong because I didn’t want anything to be wrong.” Malik remembers little else about the night. But the circumstances that followed have stayed painfully in his memory.
That night, Malik’s family was told by two police officers that his brother was found lifeless. Malik’s brother had been involved in gangs from the time he was 15 until his untimely death at 17. Leaving a friend’s house, he was targeted by a neighboring gang that preyed on him in the early hours of the morning. He was shot multiple times, and the paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.
Years later, Malik still feels like he lost more than just his brother that night.
“I was devastated,” he said. “And after that, nothing was the same. My mother started using drugs again and my dad would come home drunk and angry most nights. I just think it was too much for them.” Before his brother’s murder, Malik’s mother had recovered from a prescription pill addiction that almost cost her her life. With professional guidance, his father had helped her get clean. She stayed that way for years.
“I think after my brother died, she turned back to her past as a way to cope,” Malik said. “And my dad couldn’t be there for me, either. I miss my brother every day. But I feel like nobody ever stopped to care about how I was doing.”
When Malik was 15 and feeling overwhelmed by his home life and desperate for support, his mother’s former addiction sponsor came to his house and talked to him about Mercy Home.
“It seemed like a silver lining, in a way,” Malik explained. “My first few nights at Mercy, I remember crying myself to sleep because it was so different from home. It was like all the emotions I’d kept in since my brother died came out. It was like I was able to rest for the first time since I was a kid. I was just so thankful.”
Though grateful for the opportunity to live at Mercy Home, Malik still had inner turmoil that was difficult to manage. Like all of our children, Malik received tutoring support to help boost his grades. By his second semester, he did not have a single failing grade or missing assignment on his report card. Similarly, Malik developed a trusting relationship with his therapist. Together, they were able to untangle the messy layers of his childhood, his grief, his place in the world, and his ability to positively interact with it.
But something deep inside still lingered.
“The one thing that held me back was feeling angry all the time,” Malik said. “I was angry at the things that had happened to me. And my parents.”
One day at school, Malik had an outburst that landed him in the principal’s office for the first time in six months. (Before Mercy Home, he had been a frequent visitor there.) When Malik got home, his advocate was waiting for him.
“He wasn’t angry or anything. I talked and he just listened.”
The next day, his advocate had him write a letter to his mother without the intention of her ever reading it. This way, Malik could channel his anger in a way that was productive.
“Being at Mercy Home has taught me how important it is to always choose to do the right thing even when you’re mad or feel like something bad happened to you,” Malik said.
Since coming to our Home, Malik has been able to process his grief for his brother. He has also seen transformative change and positivity in his relationships with friends, teachers, coaches, and family.
To top it off, Malik made the Honor Roll for the first time since beginning high school! We are so thankful for donors like you who make redemptive stories like Malik’s possible.
Please note: Because we care deeply about protecting our children’s privacy, the names and certain identifying details in this story have been changed.