Today instead of other topics, I’m writing about something that is very close to my heart.
I’m writing about death.
And really, I’m writing about loss, and how we as a community can help each other.
I’m writing about it because last week was so very heavy in our community. We lost a fellow mom and friend. We also lost a dad. These people were neighbors, friends, business owners; whose lives touched many of us in different ways. Another family lost their home and everything in it. It was sudden, shocking and stressful for us all as a collective.
How do we as a community a mile square deal with tragedy? At any moment in the village, there are births and deaths. We are not new to loss. Sadly, we know it too well. We support each other, listen and open our hearts.
I know there are perhaps people who think this is a matter to bring up behind church doors and not in public. But here’s my thing. I’m not a religious person, so I don’t think that is enough to offer.
I was raised “Pedestrian,” — a family joke when I’d say it at a young age, and a kind of mantra, as I got older. And, though my mother is now a Unitarian minister and a reverend doctor in Tampa, I am still ... just a pedestrian. The Shorewood community helped raise me, especially when things at home were falling apart. It has been my family, since I was small, and am a poster child for “It Takes a Village.” So my passion has pathology, and I want to give my all to the place that gave me so much. It’s why I want everything to run smoothly, and with humility and caring.
It’s why I want to write about our connection to each other, and in our loss, help us all to do the right thing by each other and our children.
I know that this community looks out for its members.
I don’t know about you, but my days in the last week have involved many small, hushed, fervent conversations with other moms and dads who are in shock, whispering our fears and sadness to each other. I cried at the grocery store. I cried in the parking lot. Loss is on a lot of peoples’ minds, and everyone deals with it differently.
I had a conversation yesterday that was through a fence and both of our hands went numb with cold, as my neighbor, with whom I’ve rarely spoken, shared many feelings about her own life, through tears, as our children played nearby.
I imagine this is happening all over our village, as people come together in their sadness, and share what feelings it causes to erupt. With adults, listening is the No. 1 recommended support.
If you are like me, your instinct is also to turn to professionals for some advice. Sage friends have offered resources. Awakening from Grief by John E. Welshons is a much-lauded book offering professional help in reaching out of a state of grief. On Death & Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D., is one of the classic studies of death, life and transition, and was the first to identify the five stages of death. A dear friend also recommended a website: Mental Health America. There are counselors at the schools and in private practice in Shorewood who are ready to help.
What about for children?
Our school counselors offer the same advice as for adults: Listen, encourage, and respond to their questions as they come up. Betsy Barr in Shorewood said that she loves the book The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia, and recommends it for all ages. I can't actually bring myself to read it right now, but I will.
Also know this — appreciate that a child can become more distraught seeing a parent break down than from the actual news at hand.
For us all, there is going to be sadness. But at the end of this, we are here, we can help each other, and we can learn again how to be good humans for each other as we work through tragedy. It is startling and off schedule to be hugging and sharing stories and pain, but it is so very important.
The candlelight vigil last week was a treasure, and I am grateful to the people who put it together — not just for the family but as a way for us as a community to extend the light, show our love, and be there for each other.
Let’s all be kind, gentle humans as we turn to face whatever else is out there for us today.