Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On Talking to a 7 yr old about Death

I'll admit, these events have really hit me hard. After spending most of yesterday trying not to cry at work, I actually managed to talk to Gavin without breaking down.

Of course, this morning at Spin class "Sweet Caroline" was the song that pushed me over the edge. Really?!? At least it was the last song, I was sweating so much by that point that no one noticed a few tears.

Back to Gavin. We snuggled in bed and I asked him what he had been told (two boys died) and if kids were talking about what happened. I told him that they killed themselves, which I don't think he really understood, and I wasn't going to go into the details. I told him that sometimes people are so sad that they think they don't want to live anymore, that no one will miss them. But that they are wrong, they are loved, and they are so missed. That no matter what, he is always loved, and nothing should ever be so bad as to do something like that. That it's ok to feel really sad, and it's normal, but it's never ok to hurt yourself.

We also talked about how sad the parents are now that they aren't going to get to see their boys anymore. That we need to be sensitive and respectful and it's not ok to gossip or talk badly about the kids. That if he hears something that he has a question about, he needs to come talk to a parent, teacher, or counselor.

He was appropriately serious. I asked him if he understood what death was. He didn't. I explained that it meant they no longer were alive. That they don't get to grow up, finish high school, go to college, get married. Their families won't get to see them anymore.

In my explanation, death doesn't sound sordid or scary. It's, simply, the absence of life. I wonder where, at what age, we start to make it scary and horrifying.

It's a strange thing, community. I remember a few years ago when SE Polk dealt with this, it was just a story on the news. And if Gavin wasn't in school, it would probably just be a news story to me. But now that we are part of the community, it feels like it's happened to all of us, even if I don't have a personal connection to the families involved.

Chad asked me last night, "How did they not know that the kids were sick?"

Isn't that the million dollar question. It's the question that has the anxiety churning at the bottom of my stomach, that has a slight panic started in the back of my brain. We try so hard to protect our kids from so many things, how do we make sure to protect them from themselves?

Please keep our community in your thoughts. I hope that the families can find some moments of peace and solace. I hope this brings awareness to parents. I hope that the nasty kids with their mean and awful Facebook comments are called out, that their parents get a clue and help them. I can't say that those kids are the problem, but they certainly weren't part of a solution. I hope kindness and compassion prevails.

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