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A little girl in Joseph's class died on Sunday morning. I don't really even know the details except that there was some sort of bleeding in her brain and because of a "blood disease" (a clotting disorder, I assume) she was unable to recover. Jolea was a very typical first grader. She had thick, bright blond hair which she frequently wore in beautiful braids. She was a little on the quiet side at school. Because of Jol and Jos being so close alphabetically, she and Joseph were often partnered or lined up near each other. Near the beginning of the year Joseph reported to me that some of the kids at school had taken his backpack (because they wanted to play with his bike lock) and Jolea made them give it back.
Joseph has been very matter of fact about it, saying things like, "We drew pictures for Jolea today but we won't give them to her because she's dead," and "I line up behind number 8 now because Jolea was number 9 and she's dead." He choked up a little bit yesterday when he told me that he would never see Jolea again, but, overall, I think he is taking it in stride.
Of course, our whole school is reeling with the death of such a young, healthy-looking child. Everyone is comparing notes.
"How close was your child to Jolea?"
"Are you friends with her mother?"
"Which one was she?"
"When did you hear?"
"How is your child reacting?"
And then the silent questions. How much does this affect _you_? Is this more of a tragedy for me or for you? Who among us deserves the most sympathy? Who knew her best? Who was closest to her family? Who will suffer alongside these parents. These parents who were truly robbed of the most precious thing in their lives. They will live in pain for their whole lives. They will never go a day without feeling the absence of their precious girl. And yet, I sense an edge of competitiveness among the parents around me. Who is closest to feeling that first degree of grief?
This is not the first time I have seen this phenomenon. This last summer I participated in a project that involved a lot of blogging parents with disabled children. Most of the time they blog about life with a child with cancer/autism/down syndrome/etc. but, occasionally, they write about someone else's loss. Perhaps a child who shared a therapist or doctor with their child has been declared terminal. Perhaps another blogging parent's child has lost a long battle with illness. On the surface, the writing was sympathetic - showing concern for the child's parents. However, a closer read revealed a vicious competition at play. Parents listed their contacts with the deceased family - much as I outlined Joseph's relationship with Jolea at the beginning of this post.
"I was the first to hug his mother when they told her he had cancer."
"She called me first the morning of the accident."
"Our children were so close."
"We blogged together."
Why the need to prove we are so close to the center of the storm of grief? Is it for attention? Is it, for these "special needs" bloggers, for a boost in readership? I wonder if it is because when something so unbelievably awful happens, we hope that if we were among the primary people affected, we will somehow be immunized from the same tragedy striking at the center of our family.
Sure the lightning of a six year old suddenly dying can not strike two children in the same class? My child must be safe.
What a lie.
  • (Anonymous)
  • wow. things like this leave me speechless - words start to flow in my brain but they are always either inadequate or leave me in a paranoid superstitious state and i can't let myself type/say the words.

    will the school have a counselor meet w the kids?
    • How did I not see this before? Yes, they had grief counselors for all of us and did some great activities with the kids to help them process losing their friend. Also, her family threw a big celebration of life. It was very kid-centered: lots of kid friendly food, bounce house, etc. So the kids had a great opportunity to formally say goodbye. I don't know how the parents could stand being there, watching all of Jolea's friends running around, but they did it. There were probably about 350 people there.
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