As I watched the events unfold yesterday I saw a lot of familiar faces. No one I knew, but emotions I recognized, and felt once again.
Sometimes understanding doesn’t really help.
I have a picture of Kev which I posted on Facebook, he’s getting into the car for his first day of kindergarten. I have similar pictures of Drew and Kata. I can’t imagine the pain of dropping them at school in the morning at that age and never seeing them alive again.
We had Kev for 21 precious years (well 19 for me). I know the adult he was turning into. I had a pretty good sense of the type of person he was going to be.
Losing a child at any age is unimaginably awful, but losing a five or six year old to this kind of random violence is beyond even my ability to imagine.
If anyone reads this who knows any newly bereaved parent I offer what advice I can give to you. You have no words to make it better. There is nothing you can do to stop the pain, but that parent needs all the support they can get. A hug and a hand is the best thing.
It’s not going to be a short term process either. They won’t be all better after the funeral, or when they finally go back to work, or when they can start appearing in public again. If they have other children they will be working really hard to be there for the living, but they will still be in pain. They may look alright, but that’s just the mask.
Be there to help, to hug, someday to talk, don’t avoid the subject of the lost child. That child will be dominating their thoughts for years. Pretending they never existed is a deeply painful betrayal.
Don’t forget the birthdays and anniversaries. When others remember those days it is comforting.
Don’t ever tell a parent who lost a child “s/he is in a better place” even if you really believe it. Don’t talk about “God’s plan” or “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle” either. That parent is probably not “handling” it on the inside even if they appear to be on the outside.
Don’t ever, ever ask a bereaved parent when they are going to “get over it”. The answer is “never”. You learn to reconcile the painful reality of your new existence in time. For the rest of this parent’s life “Before” and “After” will have a very specific meaning.
I wish I could undo the past. Accepting that that’s impossible I wish I had some words or comfort to offer those in pain. Accepting that that’s also impossible I offer simple condolences. Inadequate, I suppose, but perhaps on some level a tiny ripple of comfort to someone who needs it. If I could give you what strength I have I would.