On the day of the Uvalde murders, I was on my way to Branch Line, a restaurant located in Watertown, to meet another school administrator, and happened to be listening to WBUR. When I heard the news, I felt numb mixed with a surge of anxiety that felt like a shooting pain in my heart. Later that evening, I was up most of the night reading news clips online and checking out various news platforms. I woke up on Wednesday thinking about Fayerweather and tried to imagine how I would respond to such an overwhelmingly tragic situation. Pulling up to school during morning drop-off and seeing the doors of the school wide-open and our bustling community of parents, staff, and students milling about, I had the urge to fence us all in to protect us from the unknown. I know that does not work, nor is it the right thing to do, but the urge is strong and the anxiety palpable.
An FSS parent recently shared a book entitled “Learning from Loss” by Brittany R. Collins. Thumbing through the pages reminded me that loss comes in many forms. In our small world at Fayerweather, I witnessed the impact of loss this year, sometimes what feels like everywhere I turn. It has been a year of continued and relentless problem solving, decision making, and feeling the energy of deep appreciation and profound disappointment.
This year has been about working through what has been lost due to the impact of COVID. The loss of loved ones; the loss of relationships; the loss of our fellow humans due to murderous, hate-filled rampages; the loss from the struggles that we can feel in relationship with each other; the loss students, staff, and parents can feel from friendships and relationships that have gone awry. I am feeling our collective grief today. I am thinking about what we need to be present in our grief. It is important to be mindful that we are all in need of empathy and compassion.
Brittany Collings (in the book, Learning from Lost) defines grief as "broadly experiencing loss, even if that loss is not tied to a death.” She describes the kinds of grief that people can experience, such as dealing with Living Losses, Secondary Losses, and Disenfranchised Grief. The Robb Elementary School and Tops Grocery Store massacres are examples of what Collins defines as “Secondary Losses” that are felt and experienced by the people in our community who may not be directly affected. “The layers of loss are connected to but separate from the primary loss." The "collateral damage” from this type of loss sometimes operates outside of our awareness yet can profoundly affect how we show up at school.
Obviously, in terms of the FSS community, we need to continue working on and updating our crisis management plans. We must be present with our own sense of loss and the grief that exists within our community. Creating brave spaces for our students and adults to process the tragedies and triumphs of this year is essential. More importantly, we need to open our eyes to the menace and glorification of violence in our society and to think beyond ourselves to the collective we. I am fighting for a world that prioritizes the life and well-being of its citizens–especially the most vulnerable among us.