Eventually, the news organizations will leave Uvalde, Texas. Eventually, the camera lights will turn off. Eventually, the platitudes of politicians will go silent. Eventually, the national attention to the tragedy that has unfolded at Robb Elementary School will wane and move on to something else.
The horror of the loss will not fade. The searing pain of having to bury your child will never abate. The screams inside the hearts of these parents will never go silent. While the nation will have moved on from the tragedy, those left behind will have to deal with the unimaginable for the rest of their lives.
I lost my child to cancer in June 2009. It was the absolute worst day of my life. There is not a day that goes by in which my heart does not scream out in pain. It only takes a few moments of remembering the events of that horrible day to bring tears streaming down my face. The pain and horror of losing a child cannot be fully described by words.
A good friend of mine told me it is like having “an appendage ripped out of you.” It is much, much worse than that. It is a deep, searing, boring pain that is suffocating. And it never goes away. It will be 13 years next month, and the pain is as fresh as it was all those years ago.
At least my daughter died due to complications of cancer and the toxic chemotherapy used to treat it. I can wrap my head around that. I cannot wrap my head around losing my child to the senseless evil of a sick and depraved murderer. I cannot wrap my head around dropping my child off to school in the morning and then getting a call that he has been killed in the afternoon. Having lost a child, I still cannot even imagine this kind of terror.
But 19 families are currently going through this terror right now. 19 families are having to live with the unimaginable. 19 families are now enduring a torment and suffering that has no word in any language to describe it. Someone who loses his or her spouse is a widow or widower. A child who loses her parent is an orphan. There is no word to describe a parent who has buried his or her child. It is a monstrosity that is beyond description.
And 19 families are now dealing with this monstrosity head on. The attention on their tragedy by others will fade. Their pain, their suffering, their torment, the suffocation of their souls will never fade. Never.
And so, what can we do to help these families?
First of all, there are no words that can help. None. When they were putting dirt on my daughter’s pink casket, I became overwhelmed by the thought that my daughter is being buried, and I openly sobbed. Someone came from behind me and uttered the “right religious thing” to say. It backfired miserably. I was not comforted in the least.
What helped me the most was my friend, also coming up from behind me, holding my hand. I will never forget that or forget him for the rest of my life. We need to do the same for these families: reach out and hold their hands. Give them your shoulder to cry upon. Hug them and let them scream into your chest. Give them a space where they don’t have to “be strong,” because they are going through a pain that is indescribable in its horror.
As the days, and weeks, and months go by, the attention, the “thoughts and prayers,” and focus on Uvalde, Texas will fade. The nation – and the world – will move one. The pain and suffering of these families will not.
They will be going through their “Year of Firsts”: the first Memorial Day; the first Fourth of July; the first Halloween; the first Thanksgiving; the first Christmas; the first Birthday without their child. The same is true for the families of the two teachers also killed. It is a suffering unbearable in its scope and magnitude. Continue to be there for them as they try to pick up the pieces of their utterly shattered hearts. Continue to give them your hand, your shoulder, your hugs.
My heart bleeds and goes out to each and everyone affected by this horrific tragedy in Uvalde, Texas. My heart bleeds for each and every person – all over our country and the world – who has deal with the loss of a loved one, most especially a child. Lord our God, please comfort and heal them as only You can. Amen.