Burying Our Dead
The death of a teenager is devastating to the human psyche. Over the years I have endured several such trials. Saying I have conquered this pain would be lying. What I can tell you is that in those dark moments of despair and pain I have learned so much about life, love, friendship and especially coping with loss.
March 28, 2013 a date I shall long remember. My day had been extremely busy and I arrived home late. My wife shared a Facebook post she had read earlier. The post contained words of condolences for those who had lost loved ones in that morning’s accident in Hilton Head. I went to my office and looked up the story online and then lightning struck. My friend Cesar was listed among the dead. The next few hours were spent searching the Internet praying that it wasn’t the Cesar I knew. I was in denial. Finally I bowed my head in defeat when I came across a picture of Cesar posted by one of his teammates in memory of his loss. The pain cut through me.
Over the past 25 years, because of the large number of teenagers I meet, I have lost a few friends. The majority of my young men have died violently, a byproduct of the lives they led. Cesar’s death is different; it was a traffic accident on the way to school. However, the pain was not different.
Loss and the grieving process are a very personal matter. We will all go through it individually and in our own time. Teenagers struggle with loss more than adults simply because death and their own mortality are not part of their thought process. The subject is foreign. After high school teens enter the uninsulated world of life and consequences. In short order we learn that tomorrow is not promised.
Sadness, tears, withdrawal are all normal reactions to losing a loved one. Everyone, teens included, is entitled to mourn their loss. We should not tell them to snap out of it or that crying is for women, it isn’t. Parents should talk with their teens and be willing to listen when your teen is ready to open up about the tragedy. We do not have to have answers. We must be willing to walk beside them through this process. If the parent is not willing to put the child first and help them through this, then they will find another outlet for their grief, perhaps it will be friends or a school counselor or drinking and drugs. Your call.
Rituals are good for the soul. Writing letters, wearing a certain shirt, wearing a bracelet, dedicating a game in their memory are all very healing. Help your child through this process. If an extended period of time passes and your child’s sadness continues or it returns, perhaps it is time to consult with a trained professional. This is an adult decision.
As for me, I will seek to be the friend that Cesar was to others; I will seek to see the world through his eyes. I will endeavor to be the dedicated son and brother that he was. I will honor him with my life. This will be my ode to Cesar. And yes I will cry.