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Do NOT underestimate your child’s need for help

This weekend was a heavy one….  Five children, young high school aged, lost their lives in a a fiery crash on the way home from a fun event at a theme park.

News of the crash rippled quickly through the community and shortly thereafter, the names of the deceased…..  They were kids from our own community, our own high schools….so local, we knew them.

I spent the weekend with my daughter talking about what happened. But no matter how we tried, we couldn’t wrap our heads around it.

My daughter was not closely related to any of the victims, but she did know one of them personally.  A girl who was in her PE class in middle school.  But that was all she mentioned…at first…..

The beauty in children is that they are oblivious on so many levels.  Loss of life is something they shouldn’t have to experience (EVER if I had my say) so early in life.  But IF/WHEN it happens the single most important thing you can do…. is TALK ABOUT IT!

Sadly, death is a part of life.  We can’t avoid it.  NONE of us get out alive!  But, most of us expect our “time” won’t come until years and decades later, when it’s …. well… if not expected, than at least more acceptable.

But I don’t care WHO you are… 13 -16 years of age is NEVER acceptable!  It’s down right devastating.

Something happens to us when people die…. strangely, we start reflecting on our own mortality, and even worse, the potential mortality of those around us…..

As the weekend unfolded we discovered my daughter knows someone who could have very well been in the car that night.  He was invited by the kids to go, but, by the grace of God, he was told he couldn’t go, and is therefore, still with us.

THIS, is what hit home, most, to my daughter.  She is his friend.  She is thankful.  She is now very aware of how fragile life can be.

My daughter doesn’t always wear her heart on her sleeve.  She tends to hide it in her wit and sarcasm – a bit of a coping mechanism.  But through her pain and processing, she she would let little things out.  Things I would have missed if I weren’t paying attention.

Last night we attended a vigil.  I was surprised when my daughter said she would go.  But proud that she would ‘represent’. As the night unfolded, I heard from her that the girl who died that was in her PE class in middle school who she let on to be an acquaintance, was a little closer than she originally let on.  She said “Jenny” was really funny and used to make her laugh and called her “adorable”…  The veil is slowly lifting…..  I think the power of the vigil was one that made her realize she wasn’t alone in her pain.  And as she saw the many tears falling from those around her, her comfort level in sharing grew bit by bit.

She saw, first hand, the reach of this terrible loss.  She participated with the hundreds, if not thousands, who mourned a tragic event.

I’m so very thankful for her high school, who handled things so well.  They brought the community together to pay respects, and even provided counselors for the grieving.  What a great offering.

However, I don’t know how many actually took people up on the counselors, because I personally believe many won’t know the need until the weeks that follow.

Grief is a process.  And each person processes differently.  I know for myself, I’m very slow.  Things may hit me weeks down the road.  But at least I know myself.  And I have taken DECADES to learn my process.

CHILDREN, on the other hand, do NOT know themselves.  And as I have witnessed in the last 48 hours, children may not know HOW to process, and they certainly won’t have a timeline.

In this, I ask all parents, friends and families to please keep an eye on your children.  Watch for subtle signs that something might be ‘off’ with your children.  Ask questions, be patient, but be present.

As I have seen the light change slowly for my own child, I’m well aware that she isn’t just letting this go.  It’s a slow simmer. And I’m fairly certain that she isn’t going to the school to ask for a counselor.  Right now, she’s simply asking to skip school for a day…or so…..  THAT’S A SIGN that she’s not ready to process this!

Death is a mystery to us all.  Don’t take this lightly with your children.  BE THERE FOR THEM and talk to them DAILY!  Ask open ended questions about the event and see where their answers lead.  If you aren’t sure, then maybe YOU can call the counselors for some guidance!

Alternatives to ignoring your children are your children looking to ALTERNATIVE COPING MECHANISMS…..

Don’t let your children choose the alternatives.  Help them through this!  This is what parenting is all about.  And if you aren’t capable or don’t feel comfortable, PLEASE REACH OUT!

The deaths of those children was tragic!  But there is still fallout to consider.  Keep an eye on your children, talk to them and hug the heck out of them so they know they are safe.

My rant is done.  For now…..

Prayers to the families who lost their precious children!