Grief and sadness are very inconvenient. Anger is easy.
I think enough has been said about Sandy Hook for this week. The decedents have all been laid to rest. The country has turned down the rhetorical volume in order to turn toward loved ones to celebrate Christmas with those still too young to even know anything has happened. Winter storm Draco has plowed through the Midwest giving some of us something else to worry about for the next few days: power outages.
I just have an observation or two about the aftermath -- specifically the facebook aftermath. Grief is pretty predictable. The first emotion after the initial shock is anger. We saw a lot of that. With it a comes a lot of finger pointing. Predictably, a lot of people fell back along party lines because that conflict was so fresh and familiar. Fighting, labeling, hate-mongering, etc. What struck me the hardest was that these strongly negative emotions seem to be preferable to just plain old grief-stricken depth-piercing sadness.
People I know pretty well went right to some pretty horrific politicking complete with tons of expletives on their posts. But I decided to love them through it because everybody grieves differently. And it's all messy. Some messier than others.
This is what I came away with. Now let me preface it all with this: I suffer a pretty steady dose Generalized Anxiety and I have 2 6-yr-old Kindergartners. I had to send them to school this past week. To a school without a discernible security system in place. This took extra prayers, extra church time, extra care from my understanding friends, extra meds, extra love from my husband and lost of extra softness for me from me.
The first morning, I refused to let them ride the bus because I wanted 2 or 3 extra minutes with them. I drove by their school maybe 6 times during the day on Monday and Tuesday. I stopped in to drop off snacks that I had "forgotten" on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are covered because I volunteer there anyway on those days. Unfortunately that trend of driving them to and from school continued until this afternoon. It culminated with our bus driver approaching me in the parking lot and jokingly asking if I were ever going to let the kids ride the bus again. I told him I probably would but it remained to be seen when. I smiled. He smiled. Because I knew he understood. I explained to him that I'm a pretty anxious person and that this whole thing really got to me. You know what he said? "I get it. You don't have to say a thing."
Extra care. Extra love. Extra understanding. He didn't scream in my face that it was all my fault because of a., b., c.
Sort of like the way that you'd treat a struggling or fearful kid, a sad friend, an injured or sick person. Extra softness, love, tenderness, care and understanding.
The details will be sifted through in the months, years and decades to come. The experts will render their analyses. There will be studies, debates, fights, etc. But in a Black Swan event such as this, the first step is the inconvenient business of feeling. Feeling it all. Not just the pissed-off, angry, hateful recoil feelings but the deep sorrow that comes from recognizing that our time here is brief. Some briefer than others. That we are vulnerable. Recognizing that fairness is often invisible to us. That darkness lurks in the hearts of all of us. And that a life well-lived involves hurt. Unbearable and unfathomable hurt. Because a life well-lived involves opening ourselves up to the loss that comes with daring to be connected to each other.
And, it seems the brightest spot in the bleak landscape this past week is the realization that we are all deeply connected to each other.
Like it or not.