As the reports come out of Newtown, Connecticut, some of the hardest to bear are those of parents walking hand-in-hand with their children into the funeral of a 6-year-old friend today. The goodbyes for Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, two of the young victims of Friday's mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, have begun. They are places no parent wants to be.
And I can't help but wonder what went through those parents' minds as they weighed out: do we take our kids to the funerals? Do we leave the kids home? Do we go at all?
I haven't been in their shoes, exactly. I can't pretend to know what I'd do in the face of one of the worst school shootings in American history.
But I have been the adult taking a child to the funeral of another child. And I can tell you that it's not an easy place to be.
It was several years ago when my daughter was just a baby, and I had to go to the funeral of a teenager who'd died in a car accident because my job as a reporter required I'd attend. My mother was working. My father had agreed to babysit for my daughter. That meant there was no one to take my teenaged brother, a friend of the deceased, to the funeral. No one, that is, but me.
I sat in the church of my childhood that day as a reporter but also as a mother. I sat there remembering the boy who'd died -- because, of course, I live in a small town, and I knew this child too. And I sat there as the adult who was faced with comforting a child in the face of death.
As I said, the experience was different (I feel like I have to keep saying this after some horrific mommyjacking I've seen on the Internets in light of the tragedy). My brother had not gone through the trauma of surviving a school shooting. And he was a teenager, already acquainted with the concept of death.
But as we look at what parents in Newtown are doing to guide us in our grief, it must be said that the funeral of a child is different from any other funeral. They are all sad, yes, but when a child is gone, it's more than sad. There's a desperation in the crowd, a hopelessness.
In that sense, deciding to take a child to the funeral of another child carries with it an entirely different set of rules than, say, taking them to say goodbye to a grandparent. Because we aren't just asking our kids to face mortality. We are asking them to face their OWN mortality.
It's something no child should have to face. But it's something Adam Lanza forced on the children of Sandy Hook.
My heart goes out to these families who will be dressing in their darkest clothes and clutching at their children's hands as they attend funeral after funeral in the days to come. They, their children, may be survivors, but the hurt is far from over.
Would you take your child to the funeral of a young friend?
Image via Getty Images/Spencer Platt