“Mommy, what is the Blue Ribbon on the door for?”
It was about 5 pm in the evening and had just returned home from picking up my oldest from her monthly Daisy meeting at school, when she noticed the large oversized blue ribbon bow that graced our door, which hadn’t been there earlier in the day when she left for school.
See at almost 6 years old, I have been very careful how much I had disclosed to her about this latest tragedy involving a young, NYPD officer, who was actually born and raised in our local neighborhood, who had been gunned down and murdered the weekend previous.
Actually, I have truly tried my best to shield both my girls from discussing at length any deaths family, friends, pets or more to be perfectly honest.
Since my oldest will be 6 years old in July and my younger daughter is only 4, both my husband and I are on the same page to be cautious on how much divulge or get into with them on this topic.
But I heard the little voices ask me this question and knew I had to answer succinctly and had prepared slightly in my head what I would say if I had to indeed answer this real question.
So, it was now or never.
Because these same voices asking me this question, would most likely hear this and more from others at school, since the young officer killed was a former student of my oldest’s elementary school, graduated from our high school (same one I graduated from over 10 years before him) and was a local resident still living with his parents in our town.
See this hit home more ways than not.
Not only was the story all over the news, but everywhere you went in our town these same blue ribbon bows were hung proudly to show the town’s solidarity for what the senseless tragedy that had indeed happened to this local young man.
We also had helicopters circling our skies for days on end and was kind of hard to ignore the overall general noise that they brought to our normally quiet and peaceful suburban skies.
Plus add to the fray that our main and local street that took us in and out of our development was closed for two days not only for the wake, but the funeral, as well which brought over 30,000 police officers from all over the country, as well as the world, to mourn the loss of this young officer.
The funeral, also televised around the country, just so happened to be held at the local Catholic church that my husband and I were married at and our kids will be attending to receive all their sacraments at for years to come.
This tragedy was indeed not only local, but pretty much in our own backyard for better or worse. Just as 9-11 (which was on a grander scale no doubt) was also local for us and many, so too was this officer’s untimely demise that became a national news media sensation.
So, the voices begged to be answered and still my kids were waiting for a response to their original question.
How did I handle their original question of the blue ribbon?
Here is how I did respond and what ultimately seemed to work for me with my girls:
1. Not dodging or ignoring the obvious.
See, I reached deep in that moment (as best as I could), found my voice and knew I couldn’t dodge this bullet (no pun intended no matter how hard I wished I could).
2. Giving brief honest, but solid answers.
I carefully, but promptly and genuinely shared that the ribbon was the same color of a policeman’s uniform.
3. Showing my emotions and not hiding that I was indeed sad and upset for this loss.
I further explained sorrowfully and unfortunately, that recently a young, courageous policeman was hurt badly while trying to bravely do his job.
4. Avoiding any euphemisms, such as sleeping or just gone away, but indeed using the the proper terminology, such as passed away, death, dying.
I, then, found myself adding that this man had died in the process and was now in heaven with others that we have had in our own family that had gone before us, such as their great-grandparents and even the fish we had as pets in the past.
5. Adding a bit of religion, because they will be learning more about our Christian faith as they are growing up in the simplest of terms.
Since we are indeed Christian and Roman Catholic, I added that this young man was also now in heaven and was an angel, as well with the ribbon being just our small symbolic way of showing that we supported him and his family now during this very sad time for them, because we are his family’s neighbors and want them to know that as neighbors that we do very much appreciate that their son, brother or family member did to indeed protect and serve us.
Simply put though, explaining death to young kids is never easy, especially when it hits this close to home.
In the end, my girls seemed to deal with the news better than I could have expected and even days later would share with me while we were driving locally how much they did like that the ribbons were still present in our small town and even sharing again that they knew exactly what they stood for.
What this taught me, was to never underestimate what young kids can and will be able to understand death, as well as how to deal when and where loss, in general, is concerned.
I am also pretty sure we will have more conversations like this in the future, because the reality is death is a part of life, plus with the world we live in today sadly senseless and untimely tragedies, such as this young cop’s death, are quite honestly more the norm than not.
This post was written for the One Word Blog Linkup that is hosted by Lisa of The Golden Spoons (who is off this week on vacation), Marcia of Blogitudes and yours truly, too.
The words for this week are: Voices or Fast; Please feel free to linkup and join us this week.
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