I posted once before about how much it bothered me when I read some of the letters I received after the Bug left us. They were from parents who had also lost their children and I recall that when I read their notes, the pain and grief in their writing was so palpable that it frightened me. It frightened me that, years, or even decades after losing their children, their pain seemed so fresh that I worried I would never feel good again.
This week, in a town not too far from here, the unthinkable happened: A student walked into a high school cafeteria and opened fire, killing three students and leaving two others hospitalized. I thought of those parents and the horrible, crushing, claxon-loud grief that was taking over their lives. I watched the interview with the parents of the first child to be declared dead after the shootings and listened as they recounted, in heart-wrenching detail, last moments of their son's life. I've heard some people criticize the television stations for recording and broadcasting that interview; their grief was so raw, the narrative so overwhelming that one might question whether they were being exploited.
Perhaps they were. But speaking from experience, I can tell you that there is a catharsis in telling those stories, in sharing that raw emotion. We had TV cameras in our faces, and in the faces of our family, more than once in those first few days after the Bug died. I thought it would feel like more of an intrusion than it actually was. There was something strangely comforting in being able to tell the world exactly how much we were hurting.
And strangely, I find myself wanting to write to these parents. To bid them a grim welcome to the club nobody wants to belong to. To let them know we have far more members than any of us wants to admit. To tell them that it's totally, totally OK to scream "Bullshit! What the hell to you know about this??" when reading articles and books about grieving. That it's OK to want to sleep all the time. But mostly that they. will. survive.
I won't do it right away. If there is one thing I know, it's that you do not want the comfort of strangers in those first weeks. You want to surround yourself with family and close friends -- people who have seen you in pajamas and who love you anyway. People who will let you rage and cry and punch holes in your walls and won't try to stop you. I hope these families have plenty of good support people in their lives. They will need them.
But maybe in a few weeks, when the cameras have gone away and the friends have gone home and the house feels so cold and empty. Maybe then I'll gather up the nerve to say, "if you need to talk to someone who's a little farther down this road, who can help you navigate the scary parts, call. You are not alone."
I just hope I don't sound scary.