Friday, December 14, 2012

December 14, 2012

I advise you not to read this. No good can come from it. It's about today's shootings in Connecticut, and I have no words of comfort or hope.

The pain of losing a child is unimaginable to those who haven't experienced it. I have experienced it, but I haven't shared the experience of the parents of those school children. I read once that one sometimes encounters a nasty competition in grief support groups such as Compassionate Friends. Parents who have lost a young child might say their grief is more acute than other parents' because their child was small and innocent. The other parents might counter by saying they'd forged a bond with the older child that could never be achieved with a younger one; therefore, their grief was more profound.

I stayed away from those support groups. I believe without a doubt that every age brings its own pain. But there's something that can add to it. My daughter's death was sudden and unexpected, yet I'd had two years of fear beforehand. I remember my older daughter saying that day, "What must it be like for families who had no warning?" Well, 20 of those families know what that's like tonight.

Not only did they have no warning, but they sent their children there themselves, to what they thought was a safe place. For years I was haunted by the knowledge that my Jill died on my watch. So what if she was 25? It was my watch. It's always a mother's watch. From the time they're born, our mission is to keep them safe. If the ultimate lapse in safety occurs, we know who's responsible.

I can think of something else that adds to the magnitude of grief. It's hard to imagine anything that can make the most painful loss in the world even worse, but Christmas does that. If it were an elderly person who died around the holidays (and for whatever reason, many do), we'd think, Oh, that's sad. Their family will think of this every Christmas from now on. But these were little children! Christmas and children have been knitted together forever. It's not just their future absences, it's that we know they were excited about Christmas. Christmas was coming! It was only 11 days away.  I remember my first child saying, close to Christmas, "It's fun to be happy!" Yes, it is. Those 20 children should be safe in their beds tonight, storing up enough energy to be brimming with happiness tomorrow. Their parents have presents for them, probably wrapped, possibly under the tree.

This line of thinking becomes unbearable.

Shit. I told you not to read this. To those of you who did, to the sweet children, to their parents who will never be the same, I'm sorry. I'm so damned sorry.


16 comments:

Kathleen said...

I've been thinking about the Christmas connection as well. So unbearable to think that Christmas will forever carry this grief for the parents and siblings of the children and the children and spouses of the teachers who died. My father died two days after Easter, and the holiday and his death are forever tied together for me. I can't even remember the actual date, all I can remember is two days after Easter.

Susan said...

I didn't know that, Kathleen. My father died on Easter, but he was 90, so that was okay. Everything's different when you're 90.

Jill's birthday is the day after Christmas. I had a dream visit from her this week, the first in quite a while. It was wonderful. We hugged for a long time, and she said to me, "Don't worry."

NellJean said...

We have these scars, as Rose Kennedy said, and they're easily picked open. Last night was a hard night. Today is not an easy day.

The loss of a child cannot be described where another person can understand the pain, no matter what the age or the circumstance.

crystal said...

So sad to read this. I don't have children so I know I don't understand how painful it is to lose one - the closest I can come to it is losing my cats - but I recognize that feeling of responsibility, that it's your mission forever to keep them safe and well. I don't know anything that really makes something like this not hurt so much or be any less wrong.

Susan said...

Thanks, NellJean and Crystal. Nell, your blogs are so attractive! I just bookmarked them.

Helen said...

Truly unimaginable...

Indigo Bunting said...

It's impossible to think about any of this without tears.

Susan said...

Helen and Indigo: Yes, even now.

crystal said...

Merry Christmas, Susan :)

Susan said...

Merry Christmas, Crystal! I just got home from a great time with my son and daughter and their families. I hope to do very little beyond sitting for the next day.

waxwing said...

I read all the way through. I don't think I could have read it before now though -- a couple of weeks later. I made it a point to not read about what happened and not listen to any news about it because, well, because I am a coward.

I definitely thought about the Christmas connection, though, when I heard about it -- thinking that the parents had probably bought many of the gifts for their children and whether or not they'd put them under the tree -- or even if they'd have Christmas this year. I also thought about the siblings -- how they not only lost a sister or brother, but also part of their parents, possibly -- at least for a while.

Susan said...

More than a while, I'd say, because something changes on a constitutional level. When my daughter died, I knew instantly that I'd never be the same. And I'm not. I don't know how it manifests on the surface, though, or even if it does.

Bridgett said...

No, that was good to read. I, too, separated myself from the news as much as I could because of the timing, because of my own children, because the way news works in the modern world isn't right for my brain. I went to girl scout camp with my daughter and friends' daughters and focused on other things.

My grandmother just lost her oldest daughter this fall, died at 63, and every single phone call from her since (I am the oldest grandchild and she has always called me by my aunt's name by mistake) has been heartwrenching. It isn't odd for a 63 year old to die. But it's out of order.

Out of sorts.

Susan said...

Bridgett, yes, wrenchingly out of order. Interesting that your grandmother has always called you by your aunt's name by mistake. I've always done this with my granddaughter--my first grandchild, now almost 22! It's a natural thing, as they share some unique and wonderful qualities, and my connection to Liz is similar to my connection to Jill. And then there's that beautiful long blonde hair....

Gazania said...

Susan, I went through the pain of reading the whole entry. Your thoughts about loss of children at Christmas were also my thoughts. Those parents will never have a completely carefree happy Christmas again.

I did think of you on December 26. Your daughter and my daughter shared the same birthday. Mine was 46 when she unexpectadly died while visiting with us. It was as you say, 'under my watch'. Your child is still your child, no matter the age or where they are. The pain is the same.

Susan said...

Yes, the pain is the same. Thank you, Gazania. I will think of you on December 26 as well.