Eleven-year-old Colton stood next to his estranged father’s gravesite with his mom and younger brother, and read aloud the letter he’d written to him at counselor Maggie Bohannon’s suggestion.
Maggie, who works in The Village’s Minot office, provided in-home family therapy to Colton, his brother, Drake, and mom, Shannon*, after a series of events – including divorce, termination of dad’s parental rights, and medical issues – threw the family into chaos.
Shannon says with Maggie’s help, she’s learned better ways to deal with her sons’ behaviors, set boundaries with her parents, and strengthen her family’s bonds.
“She’s helped me to see I’m stronger than I think I am most days,” Shannon says.
Shannon and her husband separated in 2010, when the boys were 4 and 2. Their divorce was finalized in 2012, and for a while, her ex had visitation rights. But those visits often didn’t go well, and the boys’ behaviors would worsen when they returned home. A couple years later, their father petitioned to have his parental rights terminated. Shannon decided it was best not to contest it, and that she would raise and support her sons.
In 2015, their father was diagnosed with colon cancer, and a year later, he passed away. That news created a whole new round of grief, anger, and confusion for the boys.
In the midst of all that, Drake had surgery to repair a damaged kidney, and since has started having seizures. “He’s just a little boy, and that’s a lot of stuff to go through,” Shannon says.
Both Colton and Drake have ADHD and oppositional tendencies. Shannon had previously tried different counselors and types of counseling, but says she never felt like they made progress and that “people thought I was crazy or exaggerating or not parenting well,” she says.
To have Maggie come into their home and see their daily struggles made Shannon feel less alone and affirmed that her family’s issues weren’t her fault.
Now Shannon knows how to help Colton cope with his anger or frustration. She has games she can play with the boys to get them to open up. She’s establishing herself as the leader of their household, and not leaning too much on her parents.
“Maggie helped me see I can do this,” Shannon says.
Maggie says when she works with families, she focuses on families strengths and provides encouragement. "Small adjustments often yield big results," Maggie says. "I like to focus on what we 'can do' and what works – and do more of that!"
During the family’s appointment with Maggie the week following the gravesite visit, they all went to their church to pray over the letter Colton wrote, and once home, burned it, spreading the ashes in their back yard.
Shannon says the ceremony Maggie suggested gave her sons a lot of closure, and helped them through the grief of losing their father.
“That was huge that she helped us with that because I didn’t know how to do that for him,” Shannon says.
Thanks to The Village, Shannon says she doesn’t feel so alone.
“We really truly appreciate everything Maggie’s done,” she adds. “I don’t know how we would have managed.”
*Names changed to protect clients’ identity
The Village provides outpatient counseling and in-home family therapy in communities across North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as other behavioral heath services like addiction treatment, financial counseling, pregnancy counseling, mentoring, and more. To make an appointment with The Village, call 800-627-8220 or request an appointment online.