Our Lives

Sorting through the emotions left by tragedy

December 22, 2012 

KIMBERLYCONLEY.OURLIVES2012.AL.JEL

Kimberly Conley.

JLEONARD@NEWSOBSERVER.COM — JULI LEONARD

The blinking cursor at the top of my Word document as I began this column is not usually so daunting. But only three days from the Newtown tragedy, it seemed impossible to reflect on anything other than the senseless loss of so many.

My husband and I watched the president’s speech from Newtown. I found it to be heartfelt and genuine. I connected with the notion that having children is how it might feel to have your heart outside of your body. All that vulnerability for the whole world to seize upon; trusting a reality filled with unknowns both uplifting and positive, and the ones we want to shield them from, is a daily challenge.

I haven’t allowed myself to serve as witness to the media coverage. I really only know the bare minimum. It’s painful enough. I’m building my walls of defense. Maybe that’s selfish, but it’s my coping mechanism.

I know bad things happen around the world daily. But as a mother of school-aged children, this one cut me to the core. How do we reconcile this pain? How do I not feel guilt when I kiss my kids, knowing there are parents who will not get that same chance ever again? A merry Christmas? I’m not so sure how ‘merry’ it will be. How do we entertain the thought of feeling merry as so many are filled with what I can only imagine as inconsolable grief?

A Facebook conversation started by one of my dear friends, who has a first-grader, simply posed as a status “To tell or not to tell …” I read through the responses that were somewhat aligned with mine, though even for my oldest child, we only touched on the fact that lives were lost. Leaving out the specifics is probably something I can do for just so long. I feel guilt about that too. On the way to school one morning, I told my kids they might hear about something very upsetting, but please try not to be scared. I went on to say that Mommy and Daddy would answer any questions or talk more about it that night.

Driving away from school, I wondered how the teachers were dealing with this heavy load. Would they be harboring fear, anger, despair? There hasn’t been enough time to sort through their feelings, let alone answer the questions and address the fears of their students, especially the young ones. I probably should have told my kids more. The last thing parents want to do right now is put more on our teachers. I can hide behind my laptop for most of the day, so my interaction with others is limited. For those who teach, console or care for our children, I am in awe of what you do.

The weekend did include a holiday party, hosted by one of my clients. It was a fabulous treat with taste delights and wonderful company. The host ended the dinner with champagne, thanking us for the contributions that had helped create a successful year for her firm. I sat next to someone I really clicked with and we laughed and carried on – I lost myself in the evening. I really needed that, but I also realize my good fortune, that I could get lost in an evening.

Events like the one in Newtown change us, and they should. I’m going to focus on appreciating what I have and keeping the negatives in perspective. May you be safe and strive to find merriment in your holiday.

Kimberly5.17@hotmail.com

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