We must do better.
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Have you ever sat with a parent who is grieving the loss of their child?
When I was the Assistant Dean of Students at WashU, I managed the University’s response to student deaths. In that role, I coordinated complex logistical considerations, helped surviving friends plan memorials, and—most importantly—I supported families when they came to campus.
The majority of my professional career has been spent on the frontlines of human suffering, but sitting with those families as they tried to wrap their heads around the acute grief of their child’s untimely death was, by far, the most emotionally grueling thing I’ve done. I can clearly recall coming home after the first memorial I planned. It was late by the time I arrived home and my infant son was already in bed. I went to his room, pulled his tiny body to my chest, and sobbed.
I’m writing this newsletter the night of May 24. Earlier today, a teenager—armed with a handgun, an AR-15, and high-capacity magazines—entered an elementary school and murdered 19 children and 2 adults. Last week, a white supremacist gunned down 10 Black shoppers in a grocery store. The day after that, a man walked into a Taiwanese church in California, shot and killed 1 person and wounded 5.
These incidents are both unfathomable, and the inevitable outcome in a country that repeatedly prioritizes the convenience of gun-owners over the safety of our citizens.
Like you, I am horrified, I am scared, and I am sick of it.
So, what are we supposed to do? I’ll be honest—I’m finding it hard to be hopeful right now, but I refuse to give into inaction. I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but here are some steps I’m taking:
Contacting political leaders: This is particularly important if you live in a red state or a swing state. I’m very grateful that my Senator, Chris Murphy, is an outspoken advocate for gun control and emailed him to share my support.
Also, if you own a gun, please research and implement best practices for safe storage.
If you have other suggestions for concrete action steps, I invite you to put them in the comments section.
This week, my family is celebrating both of our kids’ birthdays (yes, like a reproductive Brigadoon, my uterus only seems to function properly one week each year). That also means that this week marks my seventh anniversary of becoming a mother—a hard-won journey after struggling with infertility. Even now, my body starts to tense up when I remember the desperation I felt at wanting to get pregnant. It was a desire I felt deep in my bones—it was primal and it was all-encompassing.
In light of our country’s continued unwillingness to keep children safe at school, the ongoing formula crisis, lack of affordable childcare, the end of Roe, etc. etc., I can’t help but think that starting a family in this environment must seem completely untenable to younger generations. I worry that 20-somethings look at this political landscape and all that we’ve lived through during the pandemic and think “this whole parenthood thing just doesn’t seem worth it”.
I’m not the first person to point out the hypocrisy underneath many “pro-life” and “pro-family” viewpoints, wherein advocacy for children ends at birth and support for families only applies to the select few. I’m also not the first person to say that we must do better for parents and children in this country.
But that’s what I keep coming back to: we must do better. We. Must. Do. Better.
Our lives, literally, depend on it.
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