Lisa Fliegel
Trauma Specialist
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The girl who blew bubbles

What can you do with a child who is traumatized, fragile, out of control, and won't play nicely with her friends?
Bubbles. (via Facebook)
Bubbles. (via Facebook)

Today, I watched a 5-year-old girl playing in the lobby of the Red Sea Hotel in Eilat. She was in a pink jersey and wielding a pink bubble-blowing machine. A plastic toy thingy, portable, in the shape of a whale. She tipped the whale into a big saucer of soapy liquid, lifted the tail of the whale, and tiny bubbles shot out. Fun!

A trauma therapist pal of mine — flowy shawls, sparkly personality — needs me. I jump up (that’s what we do) and learn about a woman here overwhelmed by her daughter. The child is out of control: she refuses to go to kindergarten and is always pushing her friends and screaming at them.

The psychologist with us explains: “They were trapped in their safe room, the terrorist was throwing smoke bombs. They were stuck in there for seven hours, sure they were going to die. We need someone to handle the daughter so the mother can get a break from going crazy.”

“Oh, those are such great bubbles!” I said to the little girl aiming her bubble blower at other little kids. “And they can be good bubbles,” I added, “and not go into eyes because it hurts and makes them cry.”

“Nope!” she said.

I got in between her bubbles.

“Don’t do that!” she said.

“But I’m your bodyguard,” I insisted. “That’s my job. To be your bodyguard.”

She knocked the slick and sticky saucer of soap water all over the other games there.

“I’m going to move these so you can keep playing and the bubble water won’t ruin them.”


“Oh this feels good,” I said, playfully swirling my hands on the boxes, generally making more of a slippery mess.

“I’m going to clean it!” the little girl shouted. Then she brought her hands up to my face and began soaping it, cleaning my chin, under my chin, my neck…

“That feels so soft,” I said. She pressed her little fingers into my forehead and swerved them down my cheeks. It felt for a second like I was doing a trust exercise at the Esalen Center in California.

“Time for lunch!” Her father arrives.


I say I’ll bring her to the dining room.

“Who are you, if you don’t mind telling me?”

“I’m a trauma therapist and your wife asked me to see what I can do.”

“All right.”

His wife comes up and hugs her daughter. “Oh, you’re having fun! We’ll go swimming after lunch? To the beach? The game area?”

“How can you decide?” I ask her daughter. “There are so many choices!”

“Thank you for coming to play with me,” the little girl says.


When I went to debrief the psychologist, she told me the mother’s brother was killed, and the father’s brother was being held hostage. The mother wanted to take the kids to her family but the father wanted to stay because the community of families of hostages is here.

“How can you separate the family,” the psychologist asked, “when they’ve already been separated as a family?”

About the Author
Lisa Fliegel is a Boston-based trauma specialist and American-Israeli writer who has worked internationally, including in Ireland, Israel and Palestine. She is a special clinical consultant to The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, a grassroots non-profit serving survivors of victims of homicide.
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