When the news broke about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, I purposely stayed away from the newspaper and television. I was deep in the throes of deadline, and watching or reading about the horrific tragedy would have diverted my attention away from getting this issue done. That wasn’t the main reason I stayed away from the news, however.
Some of you know that Peter and I lost our daughter, Sierra, many years ago when she was nearly three. It was a sudden death—Sierra drowned in our neighbor’s swimming pool—which left Peter and me reeling for months and years. Even to this day we can hardly talk about Sierra without waves of sadness washing over us as we consider what kind of young woman she might have become. She died in 1990, which seems like a long time ago, but time is relative when a loss of this magnitude befalls you. I know from experience that the Sandy Hook parents whose children were killed will never really be the same again.
That’s not to say that it’s impossible to move forward in life, to find happiness again, to experience hope and pleasure, to dream about possibilities. Yet there’s always an undercurrent of sadness that never goes away. Peter and I have learned to live with it, but compared to the flood of pain and anguish we felt in the months right after Sierra died, this sadness is just a trickle. In fact, it’s become a part of who we are.
However, I don’t do well when it comes to seeing other people in pain. It’s like their sadness becomes my sadness, and it’s more than I can take. The hard part is there’s not a lot anyone can do to help people with their griefwork. It’s a lonely road that each individual must navigate solo.
But there are some things we can do to help people who are suffering from a recent loss—because, let’s face it, everyone we come into contact with has some sadness in their lives. Perhaps they lost a job, or are fighting an illness, or have an ailing parent. Reaching out to those we know with an offer to meet for a walk just to talk can be exactly the tonic these people need. Maybe you’ll have some comforting words of advice or maybe they just need to let go of some of their emotional baggage. Either way a little bit of your time can go a long way toward brightening the day of someone in need.
Don’t stop there. Look beyond your circle into the community. The truth is there are so many who need help. Right here in Tidewater you can find numerous organizations looking for your time and talents to help people in need. Consider becoming a court-appointed advocate (casaforchildren.org), sharing your skills with Girl Scouts (gsccc.org), mentoring a child (theupcenter.org), or helping keep our waterways clean (lynnhavenrivernow.org). Open your eyes and your heart and let 2013 be the year you make a real difference by spreading peace and goodwill to your fellow humans.
Happy New Year! Love, Peggy