You are time-traveling back to Wednesday, and this is a downer, but one of the things I try to do here, is PROCESS, and so here, on my birthday, there is something I need to process before I can really get past and enjoy tomorrow's (yesterday to you) little party. You see, my little community has been hit with a tragedy.
This family is from Ann Arbor. The older two daughters attended middle school and have played softball with mine. Their dad assistant coached next to my husband for three years until his skilled daughters decided to play on travel teams... or switch to field hockey. The middle daughter is my daughter's age and though they are not particularly close, they are friendly, and have many common friends.
I just can't imagine the devastation this family has been submerged in. This dad has just lost his wife and youngest child, and now faces single-parenting two teenaged girls, who are undoubtedly feeling all shades of grief, guilt, devastation... The family is a long time Ann Arbor family, so are interconnected every way we turn. They have cousins, best friends, teachers. Everybody is grieving.
Grieving Middle Schoolers
Some people have more practice at grieving than others. There is a Facebook page dedicated to giving love and support. I would NEVER try to tell someone how to feel, or in the midst of crisis, correct how they try to help—or discount what they need to think to feel better. But middle school girls are unequivocally bad at this. They say things like “Everything happens for a reason.” Now a belief system might support this, but when somebody is grieving, it is possibly the most unhelpful thing that can be said... LATER, if something good has come (though in this case I can't see how) THEN it can be said. There is a lot of 'God wanted her to be an angel'. Makes God seem pretty darned selfish, if you believe this, but... it is the coping of 12 year olds. I just wish I could filter it, as I don't think they know what helps them might hurt others.
I don't think anything can be done, but I can definitely see some need for families to have pets and great grandparents, so they get practice with grief before a young life is stolen far too young.
My daughter was very quiet much of yesterday, but last night we ran some errands together and she finally opened up. She is amazing—her empathy is clear. Her concerns legitimate—not that there are illegitimate concerns, but sometimes she leans toward drama—not now. But she is a little older than these classmates of the young girl killed, and we have some practice with death at our house. She clearly feels the worst for the girl who was driving—the idea of being in a position of blaming ones self for the death of family members, even when it WASN'T her fault—she can see how the processing might go that way—she can see how she would feel if it were her.
My Wonderful Community
I learned about this first through a fellow writer mom whose kids went to grade school with the family, so I have watched from early. I just want to say, I am awed. This community where I so often say reality never comes sure knows how to pull together in a crisis.
The facebook group I mentioned has 1200 members. In two days. It was started by a friend of one of the girls—not sure which girl, but it has spread like wildfire. Yesterday (Tuesday, since you are time traveling) there was an email from the middle school principal... a gathering at the middle school for the elementary, middle and high school communities... cards and letters collected, grief shared, counselors on hand. School's out, but the crisis centers on these school communities and they came through. The texting system, the phoning system, the facebook system. Nobody is alone.
None of this helps the family, particularly—except that they don't need to ever have the painful encounters of nobody knowing. They may be overwhelmed with the outpouring—their lawn is covered in flowers, a banner of sorrow, letters... but those girls will never have to say to some unknowing person, “didn't you know?”
I was ten when my dad died, and this is not trivial. Not having to explain to a classmate, 'my dad died in a car crash last summer' might have saved me a lot of awkwardness my 5th grade year. It's not much, but it helps.
The outpouring of support is amazing. I only hope somehow it turns into a reasonable flow. I fear it may be too much at once, or peter out when it's still needed. I wish for this family to find healing, but I know how long that takes to even begin. And so, whatever your belief system, if you could just send a little love to a broken family from Michigan, I know it would help.