Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spectacular Sadness

Sketchy reports of the death of a 15-year-old freshman girl rocked the community this week.

The only thing I can wrap my brain around as the details unfold around the latest loss of a young and promising life- how can we as a community prevent this sort of thing? Can we just say we can be a safety net for anyone, anytime, anywhere? How do we mobilize a movement to let our kids know that we value them, and that gasp...we as adults have our share of shameful-hurtful-open ended dreaded moments to last a life time. Speaking for myself, I could open the hall of shame.

The special assembly on Tuesday for the 1,800 students of Los Gatos High School was a somber moment. "Don't be far away," assistant principal Markus Autrey told students. "The point is to be together." Teenage years are tough enough without the compounded complexity of grief.

Only a week after students learned that senior Dennis Cyncor-McMillan had apparently drowned in the ocean south of Davenport. In December, Wildcat football player Michael "Mikey" Halpin collapsed at school and died. His death was attributed to a heart defect. The coroner has not released a cause of death in the latest case. I respect the privacy of the family at this time, it's unimaginable to even think what grief of this magnitude must be.

The tragedy has resonated through the wider community, At a time when the Los Gatos High marquee promotes Friday's annual Sadie Hawkins Dance and upcoming home games, Los Gatos High Principal Doug Ramezane discussed the campus' sense of loss. This latest tragedy is the third student death in less than four months, each one compounding the sense of grief, prompted the gathering where students were urged to "be strong together." It's important to keep the lines of communication open and express your concern, support, and love.

We all have the need for a confidant. If your teen confides in you, show that you take those concerns seriously. A fight with a friend might not seem like a big deal to you in the larger scheme of things, but for a teen it can feel immense and consuming. It's important not to minimize or discount what your teen is going through, as this can increase his or her sense of hopelessness. I like the idea of offering the available ear of other adults if discussing issues seems too scary to layout for family.

More than ever, places like The Venue need our support. We can indirectly affect change by providing a safety net, it's the least we can do.


Maria R said...

Thank you for putting into words the shared sense of sadness many of us are feeling. I had two thoughts this morning, before I read your blog. One, the Venue is a very important place in our community and deserves big support! Two, we all need to look out for each other's kids, be a listening ear and a cheerleader. Every child needs to feel like they matter to the neighbors and community, and we need to share this responsibility. Fortunately most of my neighbors already fit this description, but there's always room for another verbal pat on the back! Kids need to feel like they can be sad, have hard days, make even big mistakes, and all can get better. As a parent, my heart aches for the families who have lost children in the past months. I hope they find some comfort in knowing that the larger community shares their loss.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your sense of community grief. Coming from a fairly unbiased place-as a mom of two tweens I applaud the idea of a community safety net. I too am at a loss on how to orchestrate such a monumental task but I believe like you do we absolutely need it. Can you set the ball in motion as a community organizer and past commissioner of community services? I think the support you would receive would be strong. Just a thought.