Over the course of my career I have written too many of these types of posts. I feel like our community has been through so much over the last few years. For me it started with Thomas Wedman, a young boy that died on his way to school, then there was Constable Wynn, an officer that died protecting our community and of course the loss of Darian Mar last year, a young man struck by a vehicle while on his bike. Many in my community have felt these losses personally. I have spoken to many clients about the direct and indirect impact these losses have had on their lives. While each of us have likely experienced our own losses over this same timeframe there is something unique about a grief that hits the community as a whole. This type of grief ripples through us and touches us all deeply in a shared sense of loss.
This week St. Albert lost four young men. These young men were doing what so many of our other young people do in this community. They were going to play hockey. For so many of us, St. Albert is a hockey city. So many of us parents spend hours at the rinks watching our children have the same dream that Conner Lukan, Logan Hunter, Stephen Wack, and Jaxon Joseph were working hard to make real. Hockey parents can put themselves directly in their parents’ shoes. Not only is this a personal loss for so many in our community, it is also a loss that hits the rest of us so close to home. The loss has not only personal roots but cultural ones.
It could have been my boy on that bus, just like it could have been my daughter on that bike. We go through life pretending and ignoring the brutal reality that it can happen to any of us. The grief we feel is about Conner, Logan, Stephen, Jaxon and their families but it is also that we are faced with the shared delusion that we all have more time. Some day there will be no more time left with the people we love.
Here are a few things that I am hoping that you will keep in mind while we walk through this grief again.
This is personal.
Everyone in our community will be touched by this in one way or another. For some it will be deeply personal. There are families, friends, neighbours, schoolmates, teachers and coaches that will feel this grief directly. For others it will be more indirect. We may not know the boys but we are connected to their stories through people that were close to them. Either way the grief is real. Grief has a way of touching all the other losses we have had throughout our lives. So even those indirectly connected can feel this on a deeply personal level. Hearing the stories of this loss has me re-experiencing the loss of my father even though these two events are completely unrelated. The feelings touch each other.
If you are personally grieving this trauma here is a previous post I did on Surviving a Crisis that may be helpful.
Try not to judge your reaction or the reaction of others.
Grief is unique. Some people will hear the story and quickly move on while others will obsess over the details. Both are okay. As long as you trust and listen to yourself and what you need. We as a community have been here before. Here is a post I wrote on how we as a community can help in times of tragedy.
Support our young people.
If loss isn’t something that someone has experienced directly yet in their life, a loss like this can be life altering. Being faced with the reality of death can be shocking for youth. Brain development is such that one of the last areas of our brain to develop is our prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for decision making and moral development. What does this mean? Teenagers and young adults are insightful, intelligent and not as concerned about risks. This makes them highly creative, inventive and open minded. The problem is that they don’t always understand the full weight of the consequences of risk taking because many of them haven’t yet experienced the fragility of life. Having death happen to someone they know or close to them can shake their feelings of safety and security. They understand on a deeper level that those they love and they themselves will ultimately die. That can be hard for any of us to face.
Here is a previous post I wrote with some tips on how to talk to your youth: Helping children and teens through loss.
Action can be empowering when we all feel helpless. That is part of the reason I write these posts. I do it in hopes that it will reach someone that needs it. I do it in hopes that my words will make some impact. Others donate money, bring food or tie ribbons on trees. All of these actions can have huge impacts. While you may not be able to do something for these families, there are many families that could use help in many ways. Reach out to those communities too. I have spent a fair bit of time thinking of not just the families of these young men but of the families of other young people that have died in other communities recently. Don’t forget them either. Grief has a way of connecting us all and compassion is the glue.
I never know how to end a post like this. There is so much more to say and yet there are no words. Take care of yourself and each other as we walk through this together.