LAHORE -  It has been two years since ten year old Abhishek Sarfraz died in a suicide bombing in Youhanabad. Since then, his mother, Nasreen Sarfraz has turned his old bedroom into the family drawing room, where a life sized poster of her son in his school uniform is now taped unevenly to the wall.

The twin blasts at two Youhanabad churches on March 15, 2015, was claimed by the TTP and killed 15 people. But two years later, the families of the dead are still reeling from the loss.

“We were at the church and Abishek asked if he could light candles,” Nasreen remembers. “So I gave him some money to go out to the store. He’d just left when I heard a huge blast. I ran out to find him in the chaos. They told me people had been taken to the hospital. When I found him, he was breathing his last and died in my arms. His sweet singing voice still rings in my ears. The biggest regret of my life will always be that I could not buy him the bicycle he so badly wanted.”

Psychological healing after undergoing the sudden loss of family to unpredictable, violent terrorist acts, is often ignored in Pakistani communities. In the absence of accessible professionals, getting help is an informal process and healing is often times slow and incomplete.

According to Dr Afsheen Masood, Associate Professor at the Institute of Applied Psychology at Punjab University, surviving family members are often suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “The symptoms are nightmares, disassociation from society and complete isolation, re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks and feeling angered,” she says.

“Most patients recover from PTSD by post traumatic growth (PTG). Victims of terrorism mostly bounce back from the sheer disappointment of their lives if proper facility is provided to them,” she continues.

Though there are psychiatric facilities present in big urban centres like Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi and even Peshawar, most of the places worst hit by terror like Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are unable to get psychological assistance for the families who need them.

“The terror attack at the Army Public School Peshawar that killed 144 children and school staff mobilized the state to arrange for some psychological assistance for trauma recovery, and for families whose children were killed. But that is the only instance,” Dr Masood says.

Thousands of families in Pakistan have been torn apart by terrorism related violence in the last decade. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, 61,564 people have lost their lives since 2003.

Five year old Pari, who lost both her parents in the Youhanabad blasts has been struggling to adjust to life without her parents. Her father Ubaid was hailed a hero for stopping the suicide bomber from entering Christ Church though it cost him his life.

Sarfraz, her uncle with whose family she now lives, says Pari often asks about her parents, and has generally become a quiet child.

“We know she is going through trauma. She keeps asking about her parents. She cries if anyone new tries to meet her. We are poor people. I think time is the only tool to heal her grief,” he says.

For many families suffering from the trauma of surviving terrorist acts and losing close family to terrorism, the grind of daily routine gets too much to bear. They face crippling depression that practically brings their lives to a halt.

After six year old Anmol died in the Youhanabad blasts, her parents have been unable to come to terms with the loss.

“She was our life and the cause of happiness in our home. We ask ourselves why we could not save her. We were just a few metres away,” cries Anmol’s father, Pervaiz Masih.

The Hazara community of Quetta similarly, has faced a spate of terror waves. A great number of young people fled the city when the violence became unfaltering and settled in other cities in pursuit of work and education.

27 year old Sajjad Gohar, a recent graduate from the National College of Arts and a member of the Hazara community of Quetta has lost eight family members to terrorism. He has himself survived two bombings. “I just focus on life, and try to forget the loss,” he says.

In a bid to heal and turn his painful experiences into storytelling, Gohar has made a short film titled ‘Piyaam’ for his final thesis which focuses on a child witnessing terrorism in Quetta.

“To avoid becoming a target, the people of my community now have to wear dark glasses (to hide their faces),” Gohar says. “The violence is always at the back of our minds.”

“Living with the trauma of losing family like this is unbearable,” he continues. “On chilly Quetta nights, our children would play marbles beside the coffins of our dead. The memory of these things still haunts me.”