Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts On Grieving

A friend asked me if I planned on writing about the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

 No, I didn't. Because here's the thing: my thoughts on what the parents' of the victims are going through (sheer, pure, unadulterated hell) aren't any more special than anyone else's. Lila didn't die at the hands of a crazed shooter. And even if she did, everyone's grieving process is uniquely, horribly their own. J and I walked the path of grieving Lila together, but we each had our own, different experiences.

However what changed my mind was exposure to some internet ugliness about/amongst grieving parents. I've seen horrible, horrible things written at a time that grieving parents should really be coming together and supporting each other. And so I wrote, and deleted, and wrote and deleted all weekend trying to put my feelings into words. As I struggled with what to write, what to say, how to process this. Finally, I decided to say something about grieving parents, and you all can take it as you will.

 We all know about the five stages of grief. Here's the thing- they aren't always linear. There are days when you feel like you cycle through all the stages at once. There are times you feel like you've successfully navigated your way into acceptance. Months later you find yourself desperately bargaining, praying, hoping, pleading to wake up from a nightmare.

 Not that my life is a nightmare. There are times I'm happy. Most of the time I'm okay. But that doesn't mean I'm not always aware that a huge part of my life is missing, will always be missing, that I'm altered in some fundamental way. A friend said it's like living in an alternate universe where some small part of you is always waiting to be repatriated to the universe you are supposed to live in. And so, although they don't feel like it now, these parents will laugh and smile again, but they will never again be the people they were before. Their lives have been cleaved in two.

 It's important to me that Lila be remembered not just for being "the baby who died of SIDS." I'm sure for many of the parents at Sandy Hook that will become very important to them, as well. Those little lives were so, so much more than the circumstances in which they died. They were children who took ballet lessons, played soccer, loved Thomas the Tank, delighted in the Elf on the Shelf, worried about spelling tests...They were people, not just victims, and deserve to be remembered as such.

 I suppose my most important point is that there are no such thing as the grieving Olympics. We all grieve in our way, on our schedule. And that's fine. That's good. Every grieving parent needs supportive people (I wouldn't have made it without my best friend). The amount of outward grief doesn't measure the amount of love for the lost child. And there's no such thing as measuring lose. Any parent who has ever lost a child for whatever reason knows the same abyss, it's just how we came to know it and how we relate to that is different.

 So while no one grieves in the same manner, and no one can really understand exactly how losing a child feels to each grieving parent, there is something to be said for community. I appreciated every person who'd lost a child (of whatever age) who shared their experience with me. A close friend from college told me "I've walked this path. It's horrible. No one should have to go through this. I'm so sorry you have to. But there is another side, you will get through this. You won't want to, but you will."

 And so my thoughts and J's prayers go to all the grieving parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles, and friends of the victims, along with all the people who survived. Surviving takes its own toll. And to all the other people out there, hurting.


  1. Tracie, I totally agree with this. I don't know if I feel more sorry that those poor babies lost their lives, or the fact that we as a society have plastered their faces all over the world and are turning them into something to boost up people's soap boxes. It breaks my heart. Those poor children and heroic adults need to be remembered for who they were, not how they died. That's been Nate and Mine's philosophy after losing his dad this April. People are people, people are not death.

  2. Your post moved me to tears. I appreciate your words.

  3. Thank you, Tracie. This was so thoughtful and caring. <3 you.


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