My community has experienced a tradgedy. One of our own has taken his own life. He left behind a wonderful family including a lovely wife and 5 children. This has affected me in many ways, and forced me to take a good long look in the mirror. Why?, you may be asking. My answer is because it is very easy to be irate and sad. Instead, I am forcing myself to try and look to the positive. I know this sounds so very contradictory, but if I allow myself to wallow in the negative feelings, it is easy to ascertain that I too will become depressed and in a negative mind frame....Oh, don't get me wrong. I was there. I was SO very angry for survivors of this tragedy. But, I decided that my anger is misguided. I need to do something to help, because my anger is not going to make this family's struggles any easier. This family is going to have a very difficult struggle not just emotionally, but financially as well.
I went to the memorial service, and I believe this is where my focus began to change from anger to empathy and compassion. There were SO many people there all there to support the family. There were children, parents, family, friends, clergy, teachers, principals, acquaintances and even strangers. All there to let this family know that WE will not desert them. There were donation cards for a trust set up for the children's education, and when I went through the line, almost all of the envelopes were gone! I am part of a group that are gathering our collective financial and experintial resources to assist the family in getting their home in order. They were in the middle of a major remodel that the husband was doing himself. The remaining family does not have the skills nor resources to complete the job, and I would guess they will not be able to afford to pay a contractor. So, we are gathering money, construction materials and people with experience to go and get the house at least livable. It is a small thing in the grand scheme, but to me, as a mom, having a HOME to live in that is safe and welcoming is an important part of helping this family to heal.
I am proud of my community. Let's face it, I live in a major metropolitan area, and many of us do not even know the names of the people who live in our neighborhood. Yet, in the face of a tragedy we all came together and took joy in the fact that the family seems to be doing okay, given the circumstances. Also, when a tragedy like th is happens, it has an effect on everyone.
This family is admired by all who have ever had the good fortune to meet any of them. The children are all gifted in thier own ways, but mostly in their ready smiles, politeness, and uniqueness that has inspired others. Their mother is a saint, I mean, would't you have to be to have 5 well adjusted, well mannered, educationally successful kids? But, if nothing else I have learned that how people appear to casual acquaintences, and maybe even to close friends, is not how people really are behind the closed doors of their homes. All I know is that he was not in his right mind. I knew him as a very loving father, dedicated worker and compassionate partner to his wife...not the type of person who would take his own life. It is so very sad that it took a tragedy to bond us together. We all need to realize that the phrase "one never knows" is so very true. You may THINK you know, but at the end of the day, we are all cluelessly going on with our lives and hoping we are doing more good than harm.
Stages of Grief
This tragedy has opened my eyes to look at people differently, and I think it has had a similar effect on many other people as well. All of us who knew this family are greiving in our own way, but none more than the family. As much as we all want to help, sometimes our ideas of helping are not that helpful. I ran into the mother at the grocery store and she commented to me that everyone is trying to be so helpful, but she needed to go to the grocery on her own because it was "something normal." And I felt guilty, because I was immediately angry for her that she had to go to the store! Talk about opening my eyes, and I am ashamed it took the person most connected to the tragedy to point out to me that for her doing something "normal" is how she is coping. Everyone experiences grief and healing differently, and it is not for us to judge. We need to accept and support, but never ever judge, because at the end of the day, you really do not know HOW you would react to an event of this magnitude unless you have lived the person's life.
So, I am going to focus on being empathetic and not being angry. If I happen upon any of the family, I will greet them in the same manner I always have, and IF any of them want to talk, hug, joke around, whatever, I will gladly join in without judgement for how they are grieving. Grief is personal, pain is subjective, and healing is individualized.