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    December 17, 2012

    The only consolation

    Normally I'm the woman quietly weeping in front of her television for days on end. I sometimes think that soaking up as much information as possible is my way of grieving or processing what happened; feeling all the feelings, trying to imagine myself in the tragedy is my way of somehow serving or honoring or respecting the victims. 

    With this latest evil I am weirdly, almost guiltily, detached. I can think of three reasons. The first is that the crazy pills kicked in for reals about a month and a half ago and even when I've TRIED to imagine my own child not coming home from school, my brain just doesn't go there. Like that option is no longer available, that switch is flicked. 

    The second is that this one is so far beyond my ability to comprehend that my own body is protecting me from attempting it. Like if I actually succeeded in empathizing I would never leave my house again. I've thought: "what good am I to my own children if I let myself descend into that pit?" So I haven't. I suppose this is also called Denial.

    The third is that maybe it's GOD protecting me. Knowing the sort of person I am, knowing my responsibilities to the three kids who live here with me. Like he's saying, "it's okay, you don't have to feel all the feelings this time, I know what's inside you."

    But this morning, I don't know. I wondered if I was maybe ready to feel the feelings. Which isn't to say I've totally absolutely avoided everything. Friday I went around in a nauseous daze, Saturday a glimpse of a 6-year-old's face on the news sent me into the bathroom to sob. 

    But this morning, I turned on the TV. I turned on The View, knowing that I would either love what they were saying or hate it. Like I felt maybe a good five minutes of gun control disagreement might be engaging, or at least give me something to focus on.

    Except then Joy Behar said something like, and I am SO paraphrasing: "I guess 'they're in a better place' is consolation for some people" and I thought, "JOY. That is the ONLY consolation anyone could possibly HAVE."

    Because I believe in God and heaven, and the promise of heaven is how I've clawed my way through many a World War II book. Of course those children should be here with their parents, but you know what? Heaven is better. It HAS to be better. It has to be a million trillion frillion times better than anything we can possibly dream up. That if any of us actually knew the truth of heaven and had to choose between it and "growing up, getting married, having our own kids, living a long peaceful happy life" we'd be all YEAH, NO CONTEST.

    And I believe that one day those parents will be with their children again and none of this misery will exist. Otherwise we might as well go fling ourselves off the nearest cliff, you know? 

    I have some ideas as to how Joy Behar might respond to that, but whatever. She can deal her way and I'll deal my way. It involves a lot of wordless prayer, a quick supportive email to the kindergarten teacher, a preservation of delightful expectant Christmastime for my kids. 

    A few other things help:

    All the teachers and former teachers I know, every single one of them would have locked the classroom door, huddled with the kids in a closet or a bathroom or the corner, and calmly read book after book until it was time to come out. Without a doubt. Teachers love their students. The teachers I know, especially the ones in my family, are amazing people. I can't picture them in a scenario where they don't think of their students first. 

    Checking in with friends. Most of us have small children. Just a few quick texts this morning to see how drop off went. That we are so unanimously and equally horror struck gives one a little faith in humanity. 

    Donating. Besides prayer I couldn't think of another way to turn my grief into something that might actually help.

    ...that's all, I think. Add this post to the heaps of others that had no need to be published, but are out here because I needed to write something down. 

     

    *ETA: after reading Sarah's comment I just wanted to say that I didn't mean this to be a platitude I would offer to grieving families, only something I say to myself to reconcile my own despair over horrific things happening to innocent people. What she said about Jesus weeping with us - yes. This.  

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    Comments

    I was actually glad for my crazy pills as well- I was surprised at the depth of my reaction to this, given that I am usually very detached from everything, and a little scared as to how I would have reacted unmedicated. And amen to the other things you wrote. Someone posted a painting of Jesus hugging a little child on Friday and commented that he was welcoming them to heaven. That reminder was the turning point for me- it's awful and horrible and I cant imagine what the parents are going through. But the kids are safe and happy. Lots of prayers going up for the families in this horrific time.

    All that being said, faith and hope or not, I had a hard time putting Ethan on his bus today and watching it drive off.

    I agree with this in principle and in my faith, but I'm always so wary of this "better place" statement at times of grieving. I know you are not proposing we all make cards with this sentiment and send them to Connecticut, but I have heard it from well-meaning people. It's too much when you're in the midst of the immediate pain. It seems to imply that the tears and pain are misdirected.

    My favorite sentiment that someone expressed after our daughter died (and this will be the ONLY time I am thankful that it was a long-term illness) was "Jesus wept." I think in times of intense grieving it's much more comforting to think of Jesus weeping with us in our sorrow. Jesus is weeping to see our world so broken. Jesus is weeping at the sin that caused a young man to think murdering babies was his only option. He is weeping with those parents and surviving teachers even as he holds twenty children and six teachers in his arms.

    I can usually "detach" from sad sitations as well. However, this incident in CT has struck me to the core. I have 2 small children, and they are part of the reason for my reaction to this tragedy. Thank you for holding up a mirror for me: "I sometimes think that soaking up as much information as possible is my way of grieving or processing what happened; feeling all the feelings, trying to imagine myself in the tragedy is my way of somehow serving or honoring or respecting the victims."

    Jesus has those sweet children & caring teachers in his arms. The incident cannot be undone and not even fully understood. Even though I don't watch the news about CT when my kids are awake, I am going to try not to waste my free time anymore reading stories about it. I will keep on praying for those families and look to Jesus for the country's solace.

    Sometimes we need to not deal right away because it is just too much otherwise, right?

    I loved this post.

    I too cling to the thought that the kids are in a MUCH better place. I love the way your worded the idea of heaven in your post. I tell my Sunday School class often that it's just so much better than we can even begin to imagine. I also remember that the Bible tells us there is no sadness or mourning in heaven, so I think of the children as not even aware of the sadness going on here or of the idea that they are apart from their parents. There can't be any sorrow; only joy.

    I get your meaning and Sarah's too...if I were a parent who had lost a child, I wouldn't want to be TOLD "They're in a better place", but I would absolutely have to cling to the thought myself.

    I was on a little trip this weekend, and while I was still connected to the internet, the other activities we were doing kept my mind off it as much as could be expected and minimized the amount of TV we were watching (esp. since my son was in the hotel room with us). So, while the whole thing upset me and was on my mind a lot, I don't think I really processed it all. It probably helped that my son was with us and NOT at daycare when it happened. I'm sure that would have facilitated the "processing" quite a bit. However, yesterday I was back at work and happened to see an article online when I opened my browser that the first two funerals were yesterday. I read the article and started sobbing at my desk. I tried to stay quiet and keep a little composure, but it was hard. And then I read a blog post later that started it all over again. And then I had another moment last night. I'm better today, but it really hit me hardcore yesterday. Not to mention that my son has been a royal pain the last couple days and I feel guilty being angry at him, knowing any of those parents would love to have their kids to yell at. I want to be giving him lots of hugs and kisses, but when half of what comes out of his mouth is disrespectful and cranky, it sort of wrecks the mood, you know? The whole thing is just incomprehensible, and I think my body does have some sort of self-regulation most of the time to keep me sane. It's impossible to imagine, and that's probably for the best.

    I have been weeping every time I think of those children. And someone said to me that this incident only proves to him that God does not exist, because how could He could let something like this happen? And all I could say to that was, God did not do this. Evil did this. Jesus never promised us that this life would be easy or that bad things would not happen. All He promised was that if we believe in Him, we will go to heaven and live there forever. Even knowing that, I am still weeping for those families.

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