It starts with a phone call....As I see the name pop up, I already dread hearing what I’m about to hear on the other end of the line. By the time the call is over, I have learned of the death of a student and my role is to show up with a Comfort Dog.
No two of these days are the same. But from the moment I walk through the door of the school, I can feel that the oxygen has left the building. And after working for what seems to be most of the day, I look at the clock expecting it to be time for the final bell to ring, but it’s only noon. I am reminded of the meaning of time standing still.
The standard school crisis response lasts 72 hours. Then it’s “back to normal”. The empty chair still sits in the classroom. The world of many of the students has been turned on it's head. Nothing is normal.
The thing that strikes me most is how ill-prepared they are to take care of each other after this. They are used to happy instagrams and funny snaps and parties and talk of college. No one has adequately prepared them for being the broken one. Or supporting the broken one.
On one high school deployment, as I was sitting with the students, there was a discussion amongst them if they had reached out to the sibling of the student who had died. They were all the best friends of the surviving sibling.
Not one of them had. Not one.
Not because they didn’t want to but because they didn’t know how. They were afraid they would say the wrong thing. They were afraid that they would make it worse. They thought that the family might want to be together and not be bothered. They didn’t want to do something different than their friends. So that poor sibling, grieving at home, was left wondering why no one cared to reach out.
And this is why we started Inspiring Comfort.
What these kids are experiencing we call the Awkward Zone™ and this is what we are tackling. We can teach them to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Recognizing that feeling awkward is identifying a feeling that can be changed over time. We can be taught how to push through that awkwardness to authentically connect with people. It’s hard at first so most avoid it. But it’s essential to connect with those hurting and struggling. They need people to reach out to them. This CAN be learned.
And the beautiful reality is that, when you can push through the awkwardness and help someone else, you actually help yourself.
A phone put down, a compassionate connection and a stronger bond between two people.
We can do this.