Making Sense of It All: Finding Comfort in the Midst of Tragedy

I stood in the shower in tears.  Crying, sobbing, pain coming out that I didn’t even know was in there.

I’ve been meaning to write about the chickens and the eggs they started laying.  I started the post last week and stopped for some reason.  I had planned to finish it and post it today.  After what happened this weekend I felt I needed to post something about the recent tragedy first.  I couldn’t let it go by without acknowledging it.

As a Mother, I wear my heart on my sleeve.  Everyday my son leaves for school I’m excited for him, scared for him and scared for me.  Every night I pray for God to watch over  him and protect him.  I was busy Friday.  I didn’t turn on the radio or the TV.  I found out about the elementary school shooting in Connecticut through my Mom Friday evening.  When she told me about what happened I tried to hide the horror, the shock and the sorrow.  I tried to hide my true emotions because my son was in the room.  I didn’t want him hearing.  I didn’t want him knowing.  I wasn’t ready to explain this to him.  I put it out of my mind as much as possible over the weekend.  Last night, as our family turned on the TV, the President was on most of the network channels.  I told my husband to keep flipping.  I wanted to watch a Christmas program with my family.  I didn’t want to think about the horrific event and I wasn’t ready to deal with the emotions that go along with it.

Over the weekend I went on Facebook a couple of times and immediately logged off.  It was everywhere.  Emails, blog posts, Facebook posts.  It was nearly impossible to avoid it.  Everywhere I turned there was something telling me how to talk to your children about such an event and almost all of them are saying to protect them from it.  Don’t let them watch the news, tell them about what happened, keep it short and make sure they know they have nothing to worry about, that this was one isolated case, that they are safe at school and on the bus and everywhere they go without us.

But I couldn’t, I can’t.  Over the past couple of years my son’s school has been on lock-down, not once, but twice.  The first time someone in the school had been threatened, the second time there was a threat at another school in the district.  On a third (unrelated) incident I showed up to school for a PTSO planning meeting to find the Police parked in front of the school and standing inside the front door.  A parent (or guardian) had crossed a line, threatened someone and the Police were called in.  Thankfully, in all of those situations, nobody was hurt, but each time, I was terrified, hoping and praying nothing would happen to my son, knowing it was completely out of my hands and trusting that the hands he was in would take care of him.  But with all of that in the back of my mind I can’t honestly tell him that what happened in Connecticut couldn’t happen here because honestly, I know it could happen anywhere.

I’ve always tried to be honest with my son.  I don’t believe in lying to him to protect him.  I don’t believe in sheltering him from reality, but I also know not to tell him too much.  This weekend, my husband and I chose to say nothing.  We shielded him from the stories on the news.  I was with him whenever he turned on the TV so I could quickly change the channel if necessary.  I chose to say nothing, to not even bring it up, because I love him and I wanted to protect his innocence, even if it was just for a couple more days.  I know full-well that he will probably find out about it in school and I’m prepared to talk about it at that point.  I may bring it up tonight if the time seems right.

Today is the first day in my life that I feel like a parent, and a true grown-up.  Obviously, I’ve been a parent for a number of years now, and I’ve also been grown up, but when bad things have happened in this world I have always looked to my parents to tell me it’s going to be okay.  I talk to them about war, money, politics, family matters, jobs and many other subjects, and with all of these I still look to them for guidance and reassurance.  But today, while standing in the shower, they replayed the President’s speech from last night on the radio, and I sobbed.  I thought of the children, the families, the teachers, the loss.  My heart ached for the children and what they must have gone through and the families of all of the people who are gone.  I ached knowing that the same thing could happen here.  I cried because none of us, no matter how much we want to, can be there every moment of the day to protect our children.  I cried knowing that this time my son will turn to me for answers instead of me turning to my parents.  When war happens, it’s grown-up stuff. When the economy crashes, it’s grown-up stuff.  When someone loses a job, it’s grown-up stuff.  Grown-up stuff we can filter, give our kids as much information as they need to know when they will be effected by it.  We carry the burden, the stress and the worry for them, often times without them even knowing, so they can continue to be kids.  But when something horrific happens to children, it’s no longer just grown-up stuff.  Children are smart enough to put two-and-two together and know that if it happened to other kids, it could happen to them.  When something happens to children, it directly effects all children.

I cried this morning, wondering how God could let this happen.  How could he allow children to be taken from their families?  And before Christmas… what horrible timing.  There are presents that will sit under trees, go unopened, reminders of the loss.  This will change Christmas, for the families of those involved, forever.  It doesn’t make sense.  Then I stopped.  I realized, that maybe God stopped it there.  Maybe the person who committed this horrific crime had plans of more.  Maybe  it was God’s hand that made the Police and other responders get there when they did, making him hear the sirens and end his own life before he took more innocent lives.  Maybe, God protected a larger number of people than were lost.  Maybe this happened to touch us, to bring us closer together.  Maybe this happened before Christmas to remind us of what is truly important in life.  Maybe this happened to bring us closer to God.

As I ended my shower, my sobbing stopped.  The President’s speech was followed by a speech delivered this fall by Rabbi Harold Kushner on dealing with grief and loss.  It struck me as a little odd that they were playing a religious speech on Public Radio.  I questioned whether I bumped the radio dial while I was turning the volume down.  But that’s where my questions ended.  The Rabbi’s story and words caught me, comforted me.  I couldn’t help but to continue listening and I couldn’t have been more thankful or more grateful for the timeliness of them airing this speech.  I grew up Catholic.  Other than going to a synagogue once to be exposed to other religions prior to being confirmed Catholic, I can’t say I’ve ever listened to a Rabbi.  Even though his religion is different from mine, his words were so comforting.  He was telling stories, stories about The Book of Job in the Bible, followed by real-life stories.  His insight and perspective made me feel better.   He made me realize that the doubt and anger and all of the other emotions I’m feeling are okay and the fact that I’m doubting and angry with God is also okay.  It was refreshing.  I laughed to myself, “He’s obviously not Catholic because if he were, he’d be making me feel guilty for doubting and being angry with God.”  He continued, saying that without anger we can’t love.  If a wife can’t get angry with her husband for fear he’ll leave her, then she isn’t fully able to love him either.  If a teenaged son isn’t able to get mad at his parents for fear of punishment or shame, then that isn’t an open relationship, and not a fully loving relationship.  If we can’t be angry with God, then we can’t fully love Him either.  His perspective brought me peace.  When his speech was over, the announcer said the speech originally took place in October during the release of his new book: “The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happen to a Good Person” (by Rabbi Harold Kushner).  I think I might pick-up a copy of that book…

I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.  Lately, I’ve been questioning my faith, I’ve been wondering if a different church or religion would feel more comfortable, I’ve been wondering when I’m going to feel like a grown-up, like a parent beyond the one who makes breakfast, lunch, dinner, the rules, the consequences and all of the other “things” that go along with parenting.  The tragedy in Connecticut has made me realize that questioning my faith is okay, and that my anger and frustration with God is okay, and it’s made me realize that this time it’s up to me, it’s my turn to be the grown-up, to let my child know that everything is going to be okay.  It’s my time to teach him about love and faith and that sometimes things happen in life that we just can’t explain, but that we can’t stop living, we can’t stop trusting, we can’t stop believing in each other and in God because even though we might not understand it today, we might not understand it tomorrow, and we might not ever understand it, we still have to keep living and moving forward  and we have to keep trusting in God and focusing our energy on the positive things in life.  This tragedy has made me grow-up and ironically, it has restored my faith in God, in the leadership in our country and the good of people in general.

I realize that there are always going to be bad people and bad things that happen in life, but there are so many more good people, people who are just as shocked and angry and hurt as I am. People that want a better world for our children and for future generations and that comforts me.

Kate

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