This morning a mass email went out to all parents of teens who go to the nearby high school. The message was a somber one as well as confusing. A student died over the weekend. The Principal asked each parent to discuss openly and honestly about the situation and if we had questions or concerns to call the school.
I don’t have any information. I decided to call the school. I left a message with a counselor who quickly called me back.
I wanted to know what happened. Before I could ask, the counselor cut me off. He told me that the family had not released information to the public and therefore, he couldn’t tell me anything. However, if we did know the boy, counselors and grief managers would love to talk to Nate about his feelings on the subject. What?
He went on to say there was an announcement made over the intercom that a student died and that if any student was struggling with it, to make an appointment with their counselor. Okay, but what if they didn’t know the student, but did know the rumors surrounding him and are worried about those? Too bad. The counselor can’t discuss anything specific. Huh?
I know I sound ghoulish wanting to know what happened. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to know every minute detail, but I’m wondering about what information I should share with my kid and how to anticipate which questions he might have.
Was it a car accident? Am I supposed to talk to Nate about the hazards when behind the wheel or crossing the street? Was it due to an illness? Was it a drug overdose? Suicide? If it was a suicide, was it purposeful or accidental? (This might sound horrendous but there is a difference. If the student was messing around with a gun and it went off, that is different than if he shot himself on purpose.)
How am I supposed to talk openly and honestly with my son when I don’t know anything?
Who can blame the student’s family for wanting to keep their son’s death from strangers? Not me. But I find it only adds to rumor and gossip when an email goes out making a statement without a follow up; we have a terrible secret. Now you know we have a terrible secret. We want you to talk to your kids about us knowing a terrible secret, but we’re not going to give you any tools as to how to handle the limited amount of information we have given you. Have a nice day!
I live in a community where death is immersed in the culture. Mormons talk very openly about death and what happens afterward. For the most part, death isn’t a scary subject for the LDS. The way it happens though could be, especially when it comes to a child passing away.
My culture is also one of worry. When it comes to our kids, we tend to skim over the nitty-gritty and hope there are no follow up questions we need to answer. Sex is a no-no subject. So are drugs, drinking, mental health issues, and suicide. I understand why. We live in a big, big world that is mostly out of our control. Why add to the bad we already know is in it? Why must our kids have to take on the burden of knowing a specific terrible going on in the world?
Also, there’s this underlying concern that if certain subjects are breached and discussed, they are also given as permission. I understand all of this. I just don’t agree.
If I want to help my kid, I need to know what I’m helping them with. I need to be able to talk to them directly and have solid answers.
I’m not trying to be insensitive. It’s horrible that a teenager has died. I feel horrible for his parents and friends and neighbors. I have no idea of the pain they’re going through. I just wish I knew what I could say or do to help my own kid get through some pain or confusion on the subject.