My daughter died. I am a surviving parent. There is no score card for “who has it worse off” when it comes to losing a child. But I both sympathize and empathize with the families from Newtown, CT.
Like the rest of the country, and most of the world, I spent Friday in disbelief, followed by disgust, and remain in great sorrow after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Saturday morning I awoke thinking about how those families were coping…coping. As if that is possible after the loss of a child, let alone a loss as horrific as what transpired. I woke up several times the night Ellie died, hysterical. I am not sure how much sleep I got, but it was either medically or alcohol induced. That morning I was on autopilot. In between the tears and shock, I went through the motions of going to the hospital to have her body released, calling funeral homes, cleaning our room at the Ronald McDonald House, and waiting. In between sobbing and staring in silence, I would look around. Partly because I just couldn’t believe what had happened. Was I dreaming? Where was I? I remember turning to my husband at one point as we waited for Ellie to be cremated (because neither of us wanted to drive the hour home without her) and asking him, “How can people go on with their lives when ours is crashing?” We drove through a busy shopping area in the state capital and I watched as cars passed; the drivers laughing or having conversations. Did they know? Did they know I was barely functioning? How I longed to be as oblivious.
The parents and families of those killed Friday don’t have the luxury of grieving out of the public eye. Whereas I could talk about it or not (after all, we rarely know what another person is going through or has experienced just by looking at them), these people are being bombarded by media outlets. Reporters are camping out. Even the crazies from the Westboro Baptist Church are showing up. Then there is his name. You know it. I sincerely feel for his family...what a burden. They have their own grief of loosing a son/brother/grandson/nephew and mother/ex-wife/daughter/sister in addition to the reality that their family member inflicted so much pain. But he is getting 10 times the coverage that the victims are getting. Try to figure out what made him tick, but it all boils down to a sick individual (either certifiably or just plain sick).
On top of the media and coverage of the shooter, these families are being thrown into the forefront of a political and religious storm. Not to say that some won’t get involved later…it helped me to find a cause or two to channel my grief. But gun rights activists, proponents for stricter gun laws, mental health advocates, and people who believe this needed, or was caused by, divine intervention are swarming upon the survivors. Some even think the President faked being upset for political show. I think I'll scream if another person says this could have been prevented if God was allowed in schools. It’s disgusting. On Facebook, I watched as some people I consider real friends didn’t even wait 24 hours before spewing hate, blame, defensiveness, and judgment. Pray for the families. Think of them. Condemn the act. But don't you dare blame anything or anyone but that murderer.
These families have it hard enough. Can you imagine? If you regularly read my blog, then you are probably a bereaved parent, so you can imagine the pain these families are experiencing (I speak about the courageous teachers who gave their lives too). What these families need is support…something I yearned for and what prompted me to start this blog. The media attention will hopefully help these families get the support they need through groups such as The Compassionate Friends.
I want to conclude by listing the names of those killed Friday. In my experience, the support, acceptance, and patience has faded, and did pretty soon after Ellie died. People move on and that is natural. But my heart, like the parents in Newton, will never heal. They will never be the same and will need compassion for some time. I will light a candle for the below individuals and hope you will join me. Let us not forget the victims and offer support and love to the surviving families.
Daniel Barden (9/25/05), 7 years old, male
Rachel Davino (7/17/83), Staff member, 29 years old, female
Olivia Engel (7/18/06), 6 years old, female
Josephine Gay (12/11/05), 7 years old, female
Ana M. Marquez-Greene (4/4/06), 6 years old, female
Dylan Hockley (3/8/06), 6 years old, male
Dawn Hochsprung (6/28/65), Principal, 47 years old, female
Madeleine F. Hsu (7/10/06), 6 years old, female
Catherine V. Hubbard (6/8/06), 6 years old, female
Chase Kowalski (10/31/05), 7 years old, male
Nancy Lanza, 52 years old, female (mother of shooter Adam Lanza)
Jesse Lewis (6/30/06), 6 years old, male
James Mattioli (03/22/06), 6 years old, male
Grace McDonnell (11/4/05), 7 years old, female
Anne Marie Murphy (7/25/60), Staff member, 52 years old, female
Emilie Parker (05/12/06), 6 years old, female
Jack Pinto (05/05/06), 6 years old, male
Noah Pozner (11/20/06), 6 years old, male
Caroline Previdi (9/07/06), 6 years old, female
Jessica Rekos (5/10/06), 6 years old, female
Avielle Richman (11/17/06) 6 years old, female
Lauren Rousseau (June 1982), Staff member, 30 years old, female
Mary Sherlach (2/11/56), Staff member, 56 years old, female
Victoria Soto (11/04/85), Staff member, 27 years old, female
Benjamin Wheeler (09/12/06), 6 years old, male
Allison N. Wyatt (07/03/06), 6 years old, female