Shannon Tavarez succumbed to her battle with leukemia on Nov. 1, 2010. After discovering that the young star who played Nala in the Broadway production of The Lion King had leukemia, drives were conducted and awareness was spread, prompting more than 8,000 people to register as bone marrow donors, including the rapper 50 Cent, who posted a youtube video about getting his cheek swabbed for the registry.
Most child stars don’t die young, and when they do, it’s often unexpected, such as the case of the young star Heather O’Rourke who played in the Poltergeist trilogy. Dealing with the death of a child is never easy and it may take months, even years before the family feels “okay” again.
One way that Shannon’s mother, Ms. Brown, could continue to celebrate the life of her child and remember her fondly, while helping other children, is to put on yearly bone marrow drives, encouraging more people to register as donors. This would honor her daughter’s memory, and it could possibly save the life of another child in a similar situation as Shannon was in and prevent that child’s parents from enduring the grief no parent should ever have to endure.
As with any kind of grief, there are five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It’s important to remember these stages are normal, and giving the grief process time is the only way the process can be completed. It’s important, especially during the first four stages of grief, that parents who have lost a child, like Ms. Brown, consider utilizing the services of a grief counselor who is specially trained to help families deal with the grief associated with losing a child.
It may help to continue to celebrate the milestones your child reached. Don’t be afraid to have a piece of cake in honor of your child on his/her birthday and don’t be afraid to cry on the anniversary of the day he or she died. In fact, don’t be afraid to cry any time you feel the need to cry. Crying is healthy and it can lift some of the weight that grief leaves you holding.
Most importantly, remember there are people around you who care. Look to your friends, family and other people in your community, such as members of your church or a local club you belong to, for support. If you feel like talking, then talk, and if you don’t, then don’t. If you just want something to do, something to occupy your mind, call up a friend and get out of the house. The loss of a child will never stop hurting, but with time, you’ll be able to smile when you think of them, rather than cry.
Young ‘Lion King’ star Shannon Tavarez, 11, Loses Fight with Leukemia
Coping with the death of a Child
Heather O’Rourke: The Memorial Site