Letting Go of Other’s Tragedies

Posted on | May 21, 2013 | 7 Comments

I didn’t watch much of the news coverage of what happened in Sandy Hook.  I knew about it, but I just couldn’t watch.  And when I heard about Moore, Oklahoma, I made a similar decision.

I just can’t watch.

At first, I thought it was disrespectful to the grieving parents and communities.  At first I thought I should force myself to spend at least an hour letting the ticker tape coverage seep into my brain like a cancer of fear, invading my body and mind and leaving me shattered and weak for someone’s loss.   And then I let it go.  I don’t pretend it didn’t happen or that it can’t happen to anyone at any time.  I don’t pretend it doesn’t hurt or ache or terrify me.  I just have to let it go.

See, when I was a kid, I was terrified of dying.  I couldn’t embrace the truth that everyone dies, that everything ends.  The thought of eternity made my stomach ill and I couldn’t process it.  So I pretended it wasn’t true and that it didn’t happen. And then, at eighteen, it happened.  And I learned the truth.

Everyone dies.

But the true fear in life, the true horror of the world we live in isn’t that we die.  It isn’t that we cease to exist and turn to dust.  The true and heart-wrenching sadness is that it happens to the people we love.

I’m no longer afraid of dying.  I haven’t been for quite some time.  I don’t worry about what comes next or who comes next or why it all has to happen.  I embrace my life for what it is: transient and temporary, passing quicker than I can even fathom.  But death is still something I fear, just not the dying.  I fear death not because it happens to me, but because it happens to everyone.  Even my parents.  Even my siblings.  Even my child.

So when tragedies happen, like in Oklahoma and Connecticut, they sound the death knell in my head that rings a pulsating reminder that it happens everyday to someone.  Everyday, a mother wakes up with empty arms.  Every day, a father accidentally drives to daycare to pick up a child who isn’t there,  not any longer.  Every minute a heart breaks and aches and longs for a person who is just no longer there.

I don’t have to see it to remember it.  I don’t have to sit and cry for these people to remember their truth.  Instead, I choose to honor their truth by embracing my own: by loving the child that is still mine to love, by calling the parents who are still mine to call, by joking with the brothers and sisters and friends who are still a voice on the other end of the phone.  Because death comes for us all, without warning, without sense, without any rhyme or reason. It’s inescapable.  It’s without control or consistency and it arrives without preparation and often without fanfare.  Death is just there.  The period at the end of life’s sentence.

And if tomorrow, death comes for me or more achingly for those I love, I don’t want today to pass without basking in the sunlit happiness that is my life now… my life before death. So I keep the television off.  I keep the news from my mind.  Not because it’s not important or devastating, but because it is: Death is too important to ignore.

But you know what? So is life.

And I choose life while it’s still my choice to make.



7 Responses to “Letting Go of Other’s Tragedies”

  1. Cathy
    May 21st, 2013 @ 10:11 am

    Yes. As soon as I saw the first news feed yesterday, I made a conscious decision to look away. I can’t do it. Sandy Hook and Boston and Aurora… and West, TX. It’s just too much. So last night, we played in E’s room – away from all things TV and this morning, I watched Full House while I got dressed for work, instead of the news. If I allow myself to stop and think about all the potential ways that my child could be snatched away from me, I will forget to enjoy this life I have with her. BUT I will absolutely pay closer attention to the next tornado watch/warning (this afternoon) because I never do… and what if? So… it’s a party in the middle, completely enclosed by the rest of the house, bathroom tonight, if the weather does as predicted. But even then, no more catastrophe coverage for a while.
    As always, beautiful post – amazingly written. You use words I would never think to use. There will definitely need to be a book at some point.

  2. Law Momma
    May 21st, 2013 @ 10:38 am

    It’s a fine line of healthy fear with… well, I hesitate to say disregard. But sort of? I mean, I don’t want J to grow up absolutely terrified by weather. BUT, I do want him to always respect weather and be safe. So… yes… party in the bathroom it is 🙂

  3. Jelena
    May 21st, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

    Thank you for this, I really needed to read this today. There’s been a tragedy involving children here in NL that kept the country terrified for two weeks and when something like that happens I really struggle to let go. Especially since I’ve become a mother.

  4. Law Momma
    May 21st, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

    Becoming a mother changes EVERYTHING! It totally ruined the news for me because everyone is somebody’s child.

  5. Courtney D Bosch
    May 29th, 2013 @ 9:56 am

    There is so much tragedy going on in the world we can’t escape it. I try to shield my five year old from it since the media covers everything ad nauseum. Lately he has started asking a lot of questions about death. While I make light of it for the most part (because that’s just me), it scares the holy heck out of me that he even has to think about things like this at his tender age. Like you said in this post, it’s not so much about my own mortality, it’s the reality that it happens to everyone. It’s unavoidable and inevitable. I think about those closest to me and can’t imagine my life without them. Death is hardest on the living. I choose to relish in the moments of joy and happiness while I still can. The alternative kinda sucks. 🙂

  6. Law Momma
    May 30th, 2013 @ 9:07 am


  7. Robbie K
    June 8th, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

    I generally respond to tragedies of this magnitude the same as you but I grew up in Oklahoma and I couldn’t look away this time.

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    Spilled Milk (and Other Atrocities) by Law Momma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
    Based on a work at http://www.law-momma.com.
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