Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I have attended two holiday parties for children.
At neither party did I hear the shooting mentioned.
As a former journalist, anytime there is a big news story I wish I were on the job. This time, I am so beyond grateful not to be investigating and reporting on this incident.
On Facebook, however, most of my friends, many of whom are parents, are posting about it. They are conveying sympathy, heartbreak, fear, anger, despair, and opinions about gun violence and the President's reaction and brief speech on the matter. (Most are touched by his tears, one says he politicized it when "the bodies of the children weren't even out of the school." So there's that.)
But we cannot talk about it.
It can't be that real. If we speak of it, it will grow to be real and true, and I do not know how or where we would go from there.
I saw the breaking news on Facebook Friday morning. I knew I couldn't turn on MSNBC (my source for thoughtful companionship on long days without other adult contact) for the rest of the day. Ella can never know this happened. At least not while she is a child. She must always feel safe at school. She must always feel safe everywhere. (When the Oregon mall shooting news broke just days earlier, I turned the TV off and left it that way. Imagine if my girl thought malls were where people get killed?)
On Friday, I allowed myself to watch the video of President Obama's statement while Ella napped.
On Saturday, as Justin and Ella cooked dinner in the kitchen, I paused for two minutes on my walk through the living room and saw Brian Williams and Ann Curry speaking with America and each other about the families beginning to identify their children through photographs, so that they could be spared seeing their bodies so ruined. Their eyes were teary. I turned it off, unable to breathe smoothly.
This cannot be real.
On the radio, one psychologist-commentator's voice cracked and remained shaky as he spoke of parents having to take car seats out of cars and presents out from under the tree. (I could listen to news because Ella was not in the car with me.)
I am beginning to believe the denial stage of grief is where I have been. I have been of the mind that I had to remain serene and even festive for my baby Ella. I have been succeeding because it is true. She cannot have any part of this reality. But maybe it's not just me doing my job as a mother, maybe it's me grieving my heavy grief.
If so, then what's next?
Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
I wanted to go to church this morning, knowing it would be addressed at least in prayer. I knew if I heard that message the floodgates would open. (Ella and Justin have both been sick, and Justin had to go to work, so I couldn't go.) I've been reading Anne Lamott's responses to the shooting on Facebook. Her last entry mentions that 48 hours later, the emotions of the experience are shifting. I kind of wish I were able to grieve with the nation, deeply and focused and obsessed. I don't want to miss it. But I also know that I could easily get stuck in grief--most likely in the depression stage. So I guess I'll hold onto denial.
After all, this cannot be real.