I am so deeply sorry that our community is going through such a tough year and that we have experienced yet another loss. As a mother, you have no idea how badly I wish I could wave a magic wand and take this struggle from all of you. I would willingly carry the burden if I could. As a teacher and, well, a member of the human race, I know that these experiences, however painful, however tragic, happen. And that these life lessons, as cliché as it may sound, will make us stronger and hopefully more appreciative of and connected to those around us.
So what’s next? What’s the answer? How do we prevent such tragedies from happening again? What’s the magic formula? And how do the survivors move forward?
I don’t know. And what’s more disconcerting, nobody does. There is a process, for certain. But just as certainly, there isn’t ONE answer.
So here’s where I spend my time. Here’s where I find a great deal of comfort. I know what the answer isn’t.
- The answer is NOT in comparing my feelings with others. Of course people have different relationships with the loved ones we’ve lost. But feeling insulted or annoyed because a stranger might break down more than a close friend or family member is pointless and harmful. I did not know Ryan or Kyle, two of the young men we lost last summer. Yet I haven’t stopped having bouts of tears for them since I heard the news of their loss last summer. Why? I don’t know. Why do I need to answer? Those are my feelings and I own them. They are sincere. I am not looking for attention. I simply need to go through whatever process my mind tells me to go through. I do not compare myself with the way a colleague might be dealing with these experiences. I do not assume that because others aren’t crying that they feel less pain than I. We are not the same people. We all process life experiences differently. So why compare feelings?
- The answer is NOT in accepting statistics and moving into a world of indifference or defeat. I have lost many people in my life. I have lost family members to cancer, to blood clots, to car accidents, to heart disease, to Parkinson’s disease, to Alzheimer’s, to doctor’s negligence, to old age, and yes, to suicide. All of these loved ones have become a statistic in the eyes of others, professionals and actuaries, etc. But I don’t care about the numbers. Yes. I’m a science teacher. And I don’t care about the data. I won’t allow the distant discussion of percentages and probabilities to mess with my heart and my being. These were people. These were people I loved. Unique, extraordinary, flawed, loving and loved people. And although the cause of their death has inspired me to act constructively to try to prevent those losses for others, the cause does not reflect the level of the loss I feel for each. They are not stats to me.
- The answer is NOT in pretending that there is ONE answer. That one way of grieving is the right way. The sensible way. The healthy way. Why is this thought comforting? Because it automatically means we can connect. We can be ourselves. We don’t have to be self-conscious of our tears, our smiles, our silence, our laughter, or our confusion. We can stop ourselves from offering advice, in telling others how they should be behaving, (unless of course, you’re a professional, like Mr. K, Ms. L, Ms. H, Mr. W, Mr. E., etc.) We can instead, connect. One answer is that there’s comfort to be found in no “right” answer.
How do I close this letter? How do share with you my confidence that over time, the pain will subside? The confusion will dissipate? The anger will diminish? The memories will provide strength?
I give you the three P’s.
Patience, Persistence and People.
Give it time.
Keep moving forward.
And surround yourself with your family and friends.
Patience, Persistence and People.
And know this. And here’s where I have a great deal of expertise.
It gets better. It gets so very much better. If you trust me at all, please believe that.
And that I am here for you. Always.