You know how, when you lose someone, somebody always comes up to you and says: “I can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now?” Well meaning for sure, but those words did you no good. They neither soothed your pain nor made you feel like your pain was more bearable. Well, here I go saying those words to you but in a very different context:
Can you imagine how it must feel to be 6 or 11 or 15 or 22 and survive a school shooting? (I’m going to leave a lot of space right here to give both of us, you and me, some room to take in what I just said. A printed moment of silence.)
Now that’s grief. So hard and huge and inconceivable and horrible. And bad. And bleeding and raw.And unimaginable.
Remember your first grief? How little were you? I bet it wasn’t due to a shooter coming into your school and murdering your sense of safety, forever.
I remember when Theodore died. A tiny, chubby boy brown like pudding. We were first graders. He was our line leader, the shortest one of us. His sister accidentally ran over him with her car, or someone’s car and just like that, he wasn’t there anymore. Voosh! Like the rabbit in a magic trick. Gone. No more line leader. No more Theodore.
I believe we all went to his funeral. I think. It must’ve been sorta like a field trip. It left a stain on my skin. A stench. That’s when I first learned of grief and the way it comes when tiny children disappear.
But I can’t imagine, nor can you, what it’s like to have a classmate vanish from the cafeteria, from the monkey bars, from math class, because he was killed by a madman. How do you heal from that? How do you stop feeling haunted? Feeling next?
There must be some separate category for that type of loss. Some word none of us wants to know but surely must exist. Some horrifying phrase cowering between the pages of an unread book. Hiding like students in a disaster drill.
Juvenile death grief?
SSG? School slaughter grief?
James Baldwin said we can’t always change what we face but we cannot change something until we face it (or something like that). Are we willing to face what is happening to our children? Am I?
Are we willing to at least talk about their grief? Are we willing to talk with THEM about their grief? Are we willing to LISTEN?
Or are we too afraid? Ready to hide behind our desks of denial? Lock the classroom doors from the outside so we can bask in the illusion of safety?
Pretend all grief is the same, more or less?
Rest assured because it’s not our child?