The fine line between sadness and tragedy

A lone U.S. flag flies on the top of the Big Hollow/Coot Hill trail in Port Henry. (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

This may be a vastly unpopular stance, but here I go again. Please stop telling my high school senior how sorry you are for her. She completely understands how her senior and junior years are different from the ones her older brother experienced. Believe me, she gets it. I know it may be challenging, but no one needs a stranger to express their sorrow when she announces she is graduating in 2021. 

Presently our country is clumsily maneuvering through a pandemic. I’m here to make sure my child understands that everyone has been dealt with the same bad hand. I’m not dismissive of her disappointments. They are real. I just need her to be able to distinguish the fine line between sadness and tragedy. 

Recently people were recounting their memories of Sept. 11, 2001, when planes were hijacked, people died and the Twin Towers fell. Like many others, I remember exactly where I was. When the first tower was hit, I was in Rhode Island driving to my doctor’s office for an ultrasound. By the time the first tower fell, my doctor’s office was already turned into a makeshift MASH unit. Our appointments were classified as emergency or non-emergency. I was put in a hallway where drapes created different waiting rooms. Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel gathered supplies and were caravanning to New York City to help in any way possible. Fire truck alarms could be heard from the hospital windows as people rushed toward danger without even knowing what the danger was. We didn’t know what was happening just a few hours from us. Where were our friends and family? Did I know any people on those planes, in those buildings, on those streets? 

In a hallway surrounded by strangers, I was miscarrying for the third time. My personal loss was swallowed whole by the catastrophes surrounding me. I was devastated, believe me. I wanted to fill my house with babies, but I only ever managed to keep the two children I have. A doctor rushed by while I cried in my cot and told me to honor my sadness, but this day, this 9/11 day, was someone else’s tragedy.

Currently, everyone is maneuvering through some sort of change, sadness or tragedy. Students in every grade, not just seniors, maybe suffering loss for the first time. Those losses are real and significant as these children figure out their new place in this new normal. It is our job as parents, friends, neighbors, caregivers and guardians to make sure that children’s emotions fall in the right category. If they are sad, they need to honor their sadness and to learn to cope with disappointment. If they are experiencing a tragedy, then we need to step in and get them the help they need to overcome it. I understand it is not a simple or immediate solution. It requires us to look for self-endangering behavior when nothing is conventional. It requires us to reach beyond ourselves to hear someone else’s cry for help. If you know a child, friend, or family member is suffering from the ramifications of this pandemic, please reach out to school officials or health care professionals.

My hope for my daughter’s class is that they rewrite the rules. This is the time they get to throw tradition out the window. I wish for them to look at what they could possibly gain, not what they think they are losing. Stay safe.


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