When Thomas Huber died after being hit by a car in Clifton at the age of 19 in May, the community learned about his struggles with reactive attachment disorder.
Families and service providers in the community dealing with children whose lives were emotionally disrupted, possibly through adoption or becoming a foster child, can learn more about the disorder and how to help at a free workshop to be held Thursday at First United Methodist Church of Durango. “People gave close to $10,000 to the Institute for Attachment and Child Development in his memory,” said his father, the Rev. Jeff Huber, senior pastor of the church. “Forrest (Lien, the director of the institute) wanted to come just as a thank-you present for the community.”
More than 80 people had signed up for the workshop as of Friday, Huber said.
“You go to parenting classes but none of that works for you because this is such a unique situation,” he said. “There are still things people who have young adult or adult children with reactive attachment disorder can learn that will help them better understand their child and what is happening in their family.”
Thomas Huber was adopted by the pastor and his wife, Tami, from a Ukrainian orphanage when he was 9 after a turbulent early childhood, an experience that led to a variety of behavior problems and inability for him to bond with his new family.
The Hubers, who sought help from several different sources for their son, have been on a journey of grief since before his death. There have been some surprises along the way.
“Thomas was homeless a couple of times,” Huber said. “I’ve gotten so many emails and calls, some of them from people in their 30s and 40s, he met during that time, talking about how he helped them. Thomas went to a therapeutic boarding school for about a year and a half, and apparently, he learned some skills. I just wish he could have used them to help himself more.”
The other people reaching out to the couple and their daughter, Vika, – Thomas’ sister from the Ukraine – are those who have lost a child themselves. “I’m amazed at how many people have lost children. It’s not as uncommon an experience as we might think,” Huber said. “They’ve reached out saying such thoughtful and caring things that have helped us.”
While the Hubers still mourn for the loss of both their son and his potential, they are finding comfort learning how he helped others and how he continues to help struggling families learn about the disorder through the tragedy of his death.
“He touched other’s lives,” Huber said.
“There were a lot of people who didn’t understand he had reactive attachment disorder. Learning it helped them understand him.”