In the last few weeks several tragedies have exposed the men-children to the loss of life. In two separate events, both boys had friends that were plunged into the depths of grief, under terrible and unexpected circumstances. You never want your children to experience grief before they need to, but sadly it’s part of the circle of life and inevitable at some stage.
Apart from sharing in the boys shock and sadness as a result of both tragic deaths, we also ensured that they had any support they needed and knew how to reach out to their friends. Both were in contact with their friends by text and phone (their preferred mode of communication), to offer their support. One of the boys also spent time with his friend – leaving school for the day with my permission. I agreed immediately, as peer support is so important under these circumstances.
In the days since, we have talked about the events that unfolded and ensured that if there are lessons to learn that the boys indeed do – using these horrid events to drive home messages about depression (it’s important to seek help from people), and drink-driving (just don’t do it).
What they have now been exposed to directly is the impact such events have on children, parents, spouses, families and friends, the terrible deaths having a far-reaching effect across so many people. I hope they have learned to be even more thankful for what they have, and to think about the decisions they make in life every day. I know it has caused them to reflect on the fragility of life and to understand it can happen to someone you know.
As we get older, is it just me that feels grief more intensely? Is it as adults that we understand the terrible loss and sadness more deeply, or is it through our own experience that it all comes flooding back? Upon learning about the death of this young man in a car accident, I was instantly transported back 28 years ago to the life changing events of my own sister’s death in a car accident. I knew at once the grief my son’s friends would feel at the loss of their sibling, and the support they would draw from their closest friends. And as a parent, I understood even more inherently how my own parents must have felt at the loss of their child, and the feelings of disbelief, intense and heart-breaking grief, and the completely surreal nature as the world around you continued on, even as your own life seemed to stop temporarily.
So what did I tell my children? That I had been down the path of their friends before, losing both a sibling and a parent. That I knew how they would be feeling, and that they should just be there for their friends. Be available to talk, or to text, or to do nothing but be a friend.
I hope my children don’t experience too many of these life lessons in their early years – there is plenty of time as we get older, and inevitably mourn the loss of our parents and friends. But along the way, we deal with what life throws at us, and ensure our kids have the support and guidance they need to overcome life’s hurdles and challenges, and to be empathetic, supportive, caring human beings.