The end of 2012 is just around the corner. There was a lot of talk and people poking fun or maybe whistling in the dark about the Mayan Calendar. It hasn’t been that long ago that a preacher predicted the end of the world and the media had a hay-day with that too. It has to unsettle everyone when that kind of thing is publicized. I worry about the children who hear it. It must be frightening for them.
For a number of us the world has ended – as we know it. Most of us were given no warning. It happened suddenly, brutally. It happened just recently in a little town in Vermont. It happened a month ago on a train track with a bus in Egypt. It happens every day somewhere in the world – statisticians say fourteen children die every minute. Every minute the world ends for someone and their family.
Morbid, but true. Unchanging but sadly statistically – predictable.
For the parents and family of those that have departed the world has ended as they know it and nothing anyone says or does can repair it. All the tributes being done now in honor of the children of Newtown Connecticut are sweet and well intentioned. In six months people other than those in Newtown may be talking about it. In one year perhaps those outside of that town might have a remembrance. In two years, when the parents will need it the most little outside the town will be said.
Life goes on. And so does the pain for those who lost their children. Now when the victim families of Newtown are shielded a bit by shock and the mass grieving reality is blurred. Reality will threaten to engulf them like a rouge wave in a couple of months.
My advice to the parents and families of those lost in Newtown is to lean on each other. Find or form a group through Compassionate Friends if one does not already exist. Find friends who give you space to talk. Most of all talk as much as you need to and then some.
For those who want to comfort them don’t be afraid, there grief is not contagious. If you have not lost a child don’t feel bad that you can’t understand. We don’t mind. Remember the best words you can say are “I am so sorry” and “I have no idea how you feel.” The families are not going to “get over it.” They are not going to “get better.” They will learn to move forward. They will have good days and bad. The progress will not be linear. They will want to talk about their child but will be afraid to burden you. They will erect remembrances and may wear items or collect things that remind them of their child and it may make you uncomfortable. You may be afraid they “will never be the same.” I can tell you now. They will never be the same.
They may run a marathon or start a political campaign to save others from their child’s fate.
They may find your presence (if you cannot find a way to be comfortable with them) unbearable and you may loose them as a friend. Your children, their child’s contemporaries will evoke emotions you cannot imagine.
It is not personal towards you.
It is a side effect of the awful companion grief.
Relationships within their families will be strained. Husbands and wives, parents and children, grandparents and other family members may clash. Each will grieve their own set of losses and at their own rate. There is no time limitations or expectations. It will take all the time it takes.
Some families may feel the need to move away from Newtown.
Newtown itself is in shock. Suddenly focus is brought to the lack of control we have in this world. It is a dangerous place. It is hard to trust those things we once took for granted.
Every Saturday since that Saturday, July 2nd of 2011 I become a little superstitious. I have a little nagging worry that gives me a headache even now if I think about it too much. I trusted that day for years and I don’t anymore. I hope for those of us who continue to mourn the passing of our child that we can learn to relax a bit at some point and trust again. But that may be too much to ask.
It is no consolation really but I have to say – Dear Parents and Family of the victims of Newtown – you are not alone. I am so sorry. I know part of what you feel having lost my son. His death was not to violence so I cannot imagine how you feel in the aftermath of such violence. I have not lost a little child either. My son was fully grown and an adult. I know that does change the set of variables that exists within the grieving process. Try to endure as best as you can.
Your children and my child were beautiful and precious. I am so sorry they are gone.