Defense Department, Sesame Street Help Cope With Loss

The characters of “Sesame Street” are now also the stars of “Talk, Listen, Connect,” a multimedia project that helps to guide military families through multiple challenges.
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The characters of “Sesame Street” are now also the stars of “Talk, Listen, Connect,” a multimedia project that helps to guide military families through multiple challenges.

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Elmo's Dad talks with hiim about the loss of a loved one. And Elaine Wilson, a writer and editor for American Forces Press Service, visited the iconic set of “Sesame Street” on Oct. 14 to view the taping of a production dealing with the loss of loved ones.

Wilson describes the experience in personal terms, including being next to the Hooper’s Grocery she saw on television as a child, here.

The production is the third in the initiative, developed with help from the Defense Department. Previous segments dealt with deployments and the visible and invisible wounds of war.

“The next endeavor was how do we support families of the fallen,” Barbara Thompson, director of the Defense Department’s office of family policy and children and youth, told Wilson. “That is the ultimate, supreme sacrifice that a family has to endure; and what would be a comfort not only to the child, but also to the parent who is also grieving? The result is going to be a real contribution to any family who has lost a loved one.”

According to Wilson’s report, Becky Gates, wife of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, and Deborah Mullen, wife of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, were on hand to support the effort.

Sesame consulted with the department on a script that involves Elmo and his family dealing with the loss of Elmo’s Uncle Jack. Wanting to reach a broad audience, Sesame avoids mention of combat or war in hopes that the messages of hope and healing will transcend the military and reach all children, Wilson wrote.

“Emotions ran high on the set as the cast and crew filmed the scenes,” she wrote. “I saw a few teary eyes, and just reading the script brought tears to my own. Many on the set had suffered losses too and connected deeply with the script; others simply empathized with the emotions of others and the day’s purpose.”

There’s plenty more, including photos, here.

The finished product will be integrated into a documentary scheduled to air on PBS in April, which is also the Month of the Military Child. The documentary will include the Elmo story and footage of four families, two military and two civilian, who’ve suffered a loss.

Sesame will follow up the special with the distribution of a military-specific kit. The kit will include print and DVD materials, and will be available on Military OneSource and through family-support centers throughout the services.

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