Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.
Our community recently and tragically lost a middle school student. It’s a big school and he wasn’t someone our family knew personally, but this type of loss hits every single one of us so, so deeply.
The school sent out a cryptic email to all 900+ parents to let us know about this loss. I understood on some level why this email needed to be sent in the vague manner that it was, but unfortunately it provided no information to share with our kids except that one of their beloved classmates was gone forever.
As a parent, my mind immediately went to the grieving parents, family, friends, and their pain. It went to the future, one without high school and college and graduations and love and fun and friends and, and, and…
As a parent, it was very hard to talk to my children about what happened, especially without any information. My older student turned to social media and was greeted with “it’s complicated” sentiments that were not helpful in trying to process this loss. And, with these sentiments, my mind also went to scenarios like suicide or an accident. From social media we found a go fund me page, and were happy to donate money when we were all feeling powerless to do much else.
It turns out the loss was an undiagnosed medical issue. This news helped my older student better come to terms with the loss of her classmate. My younger student, however, was the opposite. When he found out this loss was sudden and unexpected, it triggered thoughts of how his grandpa’s death was also sudden and unexpected. So, while the details helped my older child grieve the loss of her classmate, they had an adverse effect on my younger one. We went back to having many deep conversations about life and death, just as we did after my dad’s death.
When people pass away, it affects each of us in a deep, personal and profound way. As a result, the need for details for one person may not bring about the same need in others; the need to talk about it for some people may bring about the need for silence in others. These differences make the grieving process unique and different to all of us.
Where do you go from here?
- Respect others and the way they grieve (and that it may be very different from your own grief process).
- Some people need details in order to grieve a loss, while others don’t, and that’s okay.
- Some people want to share what’s going on near and far, especially on social media, while others are much more private, only sharing their loss with close family and friends.
- Some people reach out right away for help and support through counseling to process what this loss means to them, while others don’t reach out right away, if at all.
In times of great sorrow and grief, be gentle with yourself and those around you.