Sunday, August 7, 2011

Teaching our Kids to Cope with Loss

One of my daughter's friends killed his girlfriend and then himself last week. 

That's shocking to say - it's hard to believe I'm writing these words and that it's not fiction. 

He wasn't her best friend, but had lunch at her table every day.  She thought he was a normal kid.  Can you imagine that happening to you and how much that would impact you?  I can't.  I know people that killed themselves, but no murderers.  How strange would it be to go through your life at such a young age having had a friend that ended up murdering someone?

I stayed with my daughter in her room the evening of the murder-suicide and painted another coat of pink on her bedroom wall.  She's not a girly-girl.  The pink wasn't girly-pink exactly - it was a deep, dark purple-pink.  And the wall was rejecting it, as if it knew it didn't belong in her room.

I had no point of reference, no advice, nothing.  All I could say is I've never experienced this and can't understand it.  I don't understand what emotion could drive you to kill another teenager, to kill someone you love or used to love. 

So I listened.  My daughter tried to help me explain it while she fielded text messages and talked to friends about it on Facebook chat.  At several points, she told me she needed to drop out of the conversation with me to talk to a friend who was really upset.  She had to break the news to her best friend, who recently moved out of state - her friend was close to the boy and was devastated.

This weekend, after several days had passed, things seemed better.  The high school kids set up a memorial facebook page for the boy - or maybe his family did.  The calls and urgent need to connect with her friends settled down. 

Then my daughter went to her dad's house and sent me a message when my phone was off. 

She said her dad, a former cop, kept saying the boy didn't deserve a funeral or any kind of memorial from his fellow students, presumably because he killed himself and another teen.  I know her dad very well - we were married for fourteen years.  He is unswerving in his point of view - he's turning into his dad.

I finally had something meaningful to say to my daughter:  funerals aren't for dead people, they are for the people left behind.  And her dad doesn't cope well.  He copes by avoiding things, by setting them aside until they go away - he still hasn't learned that unsettled thoughts never go away.  I told her should just ignore him or ask to come home if she can't. 

She texted me back that she thought the exact same thing about funerals.  It was helping everyone to have a facebook page.  It would help if they had a memorial.  She said it all in one word, "Exactly."

She knew her dad just didn't get it and never would.  She said she was fine. 

I take zero credit for my daughter's ability to cope and help other people cope.  She is amazing. 


  1. WOw! Where I live we've got three teen siblings running from the law for bank robbery and shooting at law enforcement.

  2. I can't imagine being a teen-aged bank robber. The thing with our area is the police chief didn't remember the last time there was a homicide. Weekly occurrence in other parts of town nearby.