After a week of time putting some distance between us and the tragic death of a young woman we knew, I re-read my last post and now must apologize for bad writing, for my inadequacies. To write well an author needs to plumb the depths of their own emotion in order to "show and not tell" the story to the reader. I struggled last week to deal with my emotions: shock, fear, sorrow, anger, worry. There was little desire to dredge them all up as I spent most of my time squashing them down in order to could function.
We went to a candlelight vigil in the neighborhood park last Thursday night which saw hundreds of people gather to pay homage to the young girl. Aden and her friends disappeared into the throng near the photo wall, while the other moms and I stopped a long way out, stricken with grief and unable to move closer. The overwhelming sense of tragic wrongness sat heavy on all the parents assembled. Children in the first blush of their young lives should never go first.
Several parents shared their own stories of sons and daughters who struggled with mental health. One father told me that he was wrestling with "survivor's guilt." Their daughter had attempted suicide twice and by some miracle had recovered and was now thrilled with life at college. He said, "there but for the grace of God go I," and it's a sentiment that most of us shared. The multitude of candles glowed beautifully on the dear faces of loved ones in our community as we gathered in small groups. Their hugs provided some comfort but couldn't alleviate the emptiness, the reason for our gathering.
At youth group on Sunday, the young people were still reeling from their losses, including the death of a sophomore boy from a private school near our church. The school had kept the incident fairly quiet, partly because it occurred over spring break, and the students in my group wondered if the young boy's lack of popularity, his quiet demeanor, had contributed to the lack of conversation around his death. They are all wondering about their worth, the impact that they have on the lives of others. In social media land they calculate their value by instagram followers and snapchat streaks and wonder if obtaining the magic number of "likes" or "views" would somehow protect them from feelings of inadequacy.
How do we help them realize that their value is intrinsic, and the likes and views are as fake as Monopoly money? Real connections matter, a small number of close friends and family matters, future hopes and dreams matter. In the midst of our struggle to affirm the teenagers in our lives came another bombshell; last night we heard the news of a death by suicide at a different high school in the district.
The loss of life must stop. I don't know how to prevent it, which adds to the general unease and worry gathering mass in my stomach. All I can do is tell my children how special they are, how much they mean to our family and friends, and pray that this wave has finally crashed and withdraws back into the sea.