Brigitte Lucas began bringing her daughter, Braelynn, to Dougy Center’s “Littles” group twice a month after her husband, Ethan, died of COVID just a few days before Christmas in 2021.
Braelynn is a talkative and spirited 4-year-old who was eager to show us “Daddy’s RC car” — a large and heavy fully remote-controlled truck — that she proudly carried into Dougy Center on the day we interviewed her. Clearly very comfortable at Dougy Center, Braelynn and her young sister, Blaykley, were quick to start playing on the living room furniture and chasing one another around the big sofa.
“There’s something about Dougy Center for Braelynn,” Brigitte shared with a smile. “It’s like she walks through the doors here and I can literally see a weight lift off of her little shoulders.”
Ethan Lucas had a boisterous, warm, and engaging personality that drew people to him and left others feeling like they had made a new friend for life. Braelynn’s pediatrician, saddened by the news of Ethan’s death, quickly referred Brigitte to Dougy Center. “Our pediatrician loved Ethan,” said Brigitte. “Everywhere I turned after he died there were people who were shocked at our loss because Ethan was just so full of life.”
Not all people know how to talk to a mother and her two young daughters whose father died from COVID. That is why Dougy Center recently partnered with the Brave of Heart Fund to develop and nationally distribute grief resources specific to grieving a COVID death.
“Sometimes, people just a get a look in their eyes when we tell them how Ethan died. They want to ask questions they never would ask if he had died of something else. It’s hard for us, especially because Braelynn loves to talk about her daddy, and she always tells people how he died.”
Dougy Center is one of the few places where Brigitte, Braelynn, and Blaykley can talk about Ethan and feel safe to express whatever they need. Like other young children who are grieving, Braelynn struggled after Ethan’s death as she tried to understand what happened. She was tearful sometimes, mad sometimes, and sometimes regressed to earlier developmental stages. Brigitte was amazed when these behaviors began to ease not long after they started a Dougy Center group.
Braelynn loves to play in the Sand Room and the Littles Room, which is perfectly suited to her size. When her mother asked what she would tell other kids about Dougy Center, 4-year-old Braelynn bravely shared:
“At Dougy Center, I get to feel normal.”
Ethan's memory remains vibrant in his family’s daily life. Even as Brigitte works through her own grief while parenting her two energetic daughters, she wants to share their story.
“I want to tell our story. I want to share it with everyone because it keeps Ethan’s memory alive for me and for my daughters.”