Many years have passed since cancer became the number one cause of death for Japanese people. Well over 300,000 people die from cancer each year in Japan. Of these deaths approximately 10,000 are people in their 30’s and 40’s.
Many of these people who die from cancer at a young age are the parents of young children: toddlers, children in elementary and junior high schools.
When a parent is diagnosed with cancer and informed that their days are numbered, they worry about how to tell their children about their imminent death, whether their families–their children in particular–will be emotionally cared for, and whether their children will grow up healthy and happy, more than they worry about their own illness.
In Japan, when a mom or a dad is diagnosed with cancer, it is usually the closest family member such as the other parent or grandparents who will look after the emotional needs of the children. But because they are not professional caretakers, there can be issues that are overlooked. There are a few professional clinical psychotherapists working through hospitals who do that as well. The availability of such professional services, however, is quite limited. Furthermore, children’s continued psychological care and long-term support as they grow up after their parent passes away, is virtually non-existent.
AIMS, a non-profit organization, aims to support emotional care and healthy growth of children who have lost a parent to cancer.