Wood's Homes Blog

Looking for light in the darkness: Hope and resilience in the shadow of great loss

April 25, 2018
By Angelique Jenney, Wood's Homes Research Chair in Children's Mental Health
Looking for light in the darkness: Hope and resilience in the shadow of great loss

Sometimes you feel compelled to write, to sort out the complex emotions that life often tasks us with.  In fact, what really matters in such hard moments is that we have learned what small thing might get us through what seems like a heavy darkness.  These are what I am thinking about tonight, after the tragic loss of life in Toronto today.  I’m thinking about finding a way to shine a light into the things that we sometimes most want to look away from.  The light isn’t about looking closer at the destruction, it’s about finding the way through.

Last week I was thinking about Humboldt and what such a grave tragedy has taught us about talking about grief and loss, about the ways in which people find to keep walking when the pain in their hearts must feel like their feet are pressing into shards of broken glass.  I think about Chris Joseph who found a way to talk about his son, and the goodness that he brought, and still brings in his absence, to the world.  The goodness that won’t just leave with his passing. I think about Logan Boulet, whose loss of life, changed the lives of at least 6 others, and that’s not even thinking about all the people that those 6 lives are going to continue touching. I’m thinking about the impact of a community that openly grieves together; wearing jerseys and propping hockey sticks outside their doors. A community that is not afraid to shine light right into the darkness that could threaten to engulf them.

Tonight, as I drove home listening to the CBC, hearing story after story of eye witness accounts of the carnage in Toronto, I thought about this concept of community impact. I heard people tearfully recounting what happened, choking up on their own stories, and the images that they will likely continue to see as they close their eyes tonight and wonder how it is that such things can happen.   I thought about how these moments actually change us forever.   

There will be many who ask, ‘how should we talk to our children about such things?’ and there are of course the important messages of looking for heroes in these moments – one person took all those lives, but many more pulled people out of harms way and rushed to the scene to help. In thinking about today, I found myself circling back to the accounts and video coverage of the sole police officer who bravely apprehended the suspect, who repeatedly told him he had a gun. My words escape me when I consider the qualities that officer must possess. The capacity to maintain order and dignity amongst chaos, to strive to always do the right thing; what could be more human?

As if to rub salt in an already open wound, the CBC continued their programming tonight by reporting on the work of an Italian boat called the Aquarius, which rides the waves of the Mediterranean each day looking for boats full of refugees to rescue. I thought about changing the channel – certain I’d heard enough pain for the day - but I forced myself to keep listening. I realized that it was my privilege that would enable me to shut out all these stories of human suffering; of human trafficking, torture and death in the quest for safety and a better life. A privilege that the people on those ragged boats, as well as the teams of rescuers who go out every day did not have. I wanted to honour that. At one point in the story the correspondent reports on the rescue of a ship containing 421 people – mostly women and children – in desperate conditions. She’s reporting over the sound of babies wailing, and it feels awful to think about how life is beginning for these very young children. But then another sound begins, low at first and then overwhelming – at first I could not believe my ears and thought that they were somehow laying over some kind of soundtrack to the story. She continues to report,  But for those who can, they begin to sing, the sound filling the boat, a choral symphony of relief at being alive”.  

Honestly, that singing was the final straw for a difficult day. After everything these women had been through, they had not lost their voices. I thought of their children and what it might mean for them to hear that song. As the tears rolled down my cheeks, I began to realize that the light that is the human spirit still shines within so many of us; offering a glimmer of hope. We find ways to light the path through grief and loss: a favourite jersey, a well-worn hockey stick, a song of hope and resilience.  

This is something we could talk to our children about.

Read the CBC story here.