02 03 Notes from the School Psychologist: An Empty Nest in my Heart... 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

An Empty Nest in my Heart...

I don’t remember when I first met J. I do remember the last time I saw her alive though. I had worked with her for 3 years, and she was about to graduate from 8th grade. I was 8 months pregnant and she and her older sister, who I had also worked with, were taking bets on whether or not I was going to have a boy or a girl. I remember vividly her beaming smile, saying, “It’s a girl, Dr. B. I know it!” She will never know she was right. J. was always one of my favorite students. I know we aren’t supposed to have favorites, but there are some kids who just make a little nest in your heart. I always held a special place for J.

She was, by no means, a quiet and compliant girl. She personified sassiness and she spoke her mind. Like many middle school kiddos, she sometimes didn’t know when it was a good time to speak her mind, and she got in trouble. I have always liked working with brazen, saucy young ladies like J. though. I feel they have leadership potential written all over them. As such, she was “nominated” in 6th grade to be a part of my "Talent Group." She was one of the few girls in my group who demonstrated true empathy for other girls. I remember one day, the whole group, except J., ganged up on this one girl and started telling her off. The girl sat there, quietly crying and J. was the one to stop it. She said, “Guys, think of what it is like for her right now to have everyone gang up on her. I wouldn’t like that and neither would any of you.” I was taken aback at her maturity and expressiveness.

Over the years, J. would breeze in and out of my life at the middle school. I always enjoyed our chats in the hall or at lunch. When she needed more support for her challenges in school, I had the chance to work with her one-on-one and get to know her even better. She loved to dance and jump rope.

J. was shot and killed while walking on the street last Sunday afternoon with a group of friends and her sister. Police believe she was caught in gun crossfire. She was the 12th young person to be killed by gun violence in my city in 2012. Typically, when I hear news reports of shootings, I hear the age of the victim and wonder if it will be one of my students. This is the first time it was.

On the heels of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, this is beyond heartbreaking. It is a sad realization that there are dozens of kids killed by guns in the inner city where I work every year, and in inner cities across the country. And every one of the victims is somebody’s baby. Instead of crawling into a hole of depression and keeping my daughter safe at home for the rest of her life, I am trying to help make change. 

In the period of 2 weeks following the shooting in Connecticut, my Facebook page was filled with posts ranging from outrage and grief to demands for gun control. I had hope that this shooting was the last straw for people and that we would finally take the route of countries like Australia, whose gun control measures have reduced gun-related deaths by over 50%. However, this week, people are posting pictures of their pot stickers they had for lunch and the funny things their co-workers are doing. The outrage and grief may not be gone, but it is fading from our collective attention span. I totally get it. I’d rather think about happy things too. But when mothers and fathers have to live life without their child for no good reason, I think we have a responsibility to act.

And you all know I rarely get political on this blog, but for those who share my desire for gun control, I would like to recommend joining the Facebook Page “One Million Moms For Gun Control.”  They post things you can do if you believe in sensible gun control policies. Like many of you, following the Sandy Hook shooting, I deeply wanted change--more mental health and less guns--, but I only talked about it with my husband and friends. After joining the group, in two minutes, I was able to email my representatives. And each day, I have gentle reminders on my feed that I can do something other than be disgusted that we live in a society where children are gunned down in their homes, streets, and schools.  You don’t have to be a mom to join the group. And it gives me a small glimmer of hope that there are tens of millions of moms in the country that could make an impact. Maybe this group can do what MADD did for raising awareness about drunk driving.

There was only one J. And she will always be in my heart. I wish I had something more profound to say. I just feel heartbroken, once again. Something has to change.
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