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A Week After Sandy Hook, Grieving Continues

Following the deaths of 28 people in Newtown, Conn., as an unbearable heaviness lingers across the country, Sally Higginson takes a moment to appreciate the everyday aspects of raising children.

The country is still stunned, saddened and sober, focusing on the same things: How to talk to children about fear and death.

How to assure them that what happened at one school won’t happen at their school. How to explain to children the difference between the reality of gun violence in our world versus the fantasy of gun violence in so many shows and games.

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And we parents ask ourselves: how do we continue to wrap holiday presents for our own children while our hearts are at half-mast for the families who have most recently lost theirs? How do we let go of our children as they walk out the door each day, heading beyond the safety of our controlled walls and into the world of concealed, and once again revealed, danger?

Not that much has changed and everything has changed. We know about the inherent dangers of driving, of crossing the street, of succumbing to an accidental injury. But our lives are built around the premise of perceived certainty, security and routine, and every incident that severs our dwindling connectivity to order and safety brings us that much closer to the chaos of imprisonment through fear. Anyone who doubts that need only wait for an hour in a TSA line. 

I can’t shake my grief. I don’t think our country is succeeding in shaking its collective grief. 

The theme of teenagers with weapons culminating in tragedy is not new. Think back to entry-level Shakespeare, and the opening scenes of Romeo and Juliet. Those Montague and Capulet adolescent boys were armed with spare time and long blades. Only Tybalt dies in the brawl, but imagine if there had been guns instead of swords. The more advanced the weaponry, the greater the tragedy.

The theme of slaughtering innocent children isn’t new, either. Again, look to Shakespeare’s portrayal of this universal horror. This time it’s MacBeth. When the order goes forth to murder all of MacDuff’s children—and there are several– the tragedy escalates to an unbearable level. 

That’s what we have now, following the Sandy Hook shootings: an unbearable heaviness across the country. That, and an unending procession of funerals.

Think of what it is to be in first grade, or to be the parent of a first grader. In this space, where my sister and I so often make light of the laundry, the mess, and the absurdities of raising a family, let me instead take a moment to appreciate those same everyday incidences called raising children.

  • Today, appreciate the dropped backpacks, scattered shoes and boots, and coats resting on the floor instead of on their hooks. It means there are children.
  • Today, appreciate the sound of the cartoons blaring instead of a book being read. It means there are children.
  • Today, appreciate the Polly Pocket apartment complex built by wooden blocks and set up across the entire basement floor. It means there are children.
  • Today, appreciate the children refusing to go to bed until all of the stuffed animals are tucked in and kissed goodnight. It means there are children.
  • Today, appreciate the hands reaching up for their parents’, to hold as they cross the street safely. It means there are children.
  • Today, appreciate the whines in protest over how much they hate green beans or don’t want the sauce to touch their pasta. It means there are children.
  • Today, appreciate how much patience it takes to play a fourth round of Sorry!, each time making sure to lose. It means there are children.
  • Today, appreciate the drudgery of carpools and school pick-ups and the stress of homework and the constant reminders to put napkins in laps, to chew with mouths closed, and to sit up straight. It means there are children.
  • Today, appreciate the role each of us can play in moving toward making our world safer, less violent, and gun free. That would mean a lifetime to our children.

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