My neighbor and I (we share a duplex) watch other people's kids for some spare cash. I only have one kid besides my own, but my neighbor has a few kids that come regularly. They all play together and we help one another out.
Today, my neighbor (we'll call her Donna) also had two more kids than usual, as a favor to a longtime friend. Her friend's son is 5 (let's call him Thor), the daughter is 3 (let's call her Ramona). They just recently had a family tragedy of the worst kind and she needed friends to watch her kids while she dealt with the details of putting her life back to together.
You see, her other son (we'll call him Jacob), a 14 year old, just died. He was spending the night at a friend's house and the grandparents (his friend lived with his grandparents) had a loaded gun. The boys found it and were playing around and to put a long story short, her son was killed by his best friend. Everyone in this situation is shocked and horrified.
While some people will vilify the grandparents (and yes, it is not OK that there was a loaded gun in kids' reach, I agree with that), it's not like they wanted this to happen. And the child that was playing with his grandparent's gun has now shot and killed his best friend and will have to live with that the rest of his life. I cannot imagine the guilt, fear, and horror that involves.
And Jacob's mom. I just keep thinking of her and feeling her pain and anguish. If I lost Rowan like that, I would seriously flip the fuck out (pardon the language, but I am intensely feeling this today). Seriously. I don't know if I could do what she has been doing- which is supporting the grieving friend (telling him she forgives him) and going down to the state capital building to work for gun control. I suppose this is how she is dealing with her grief. I don't honestly know what would do- I cannot imagine the hole that would be left if Rowan were suddenly gone forever, especially if his last moments were ones of agony and fear.
So my neighbor and I did our damndest to be cheerful and fun for these kids whose everyday existence right now is confusion and grief. I brought out play dough for everyone. I gave some to Thor and said hi and he looked up at me with the most morose eyes I have seen in a child his age and the first thing he said was, "Jacob is dead." My heart fell into my shoes and I welled up with tears. "I know," I said. "I am so sorry." What do you say to a kid when he says that? What does he want to hear, if anything?
Then his sister kept getting the situation confused. "Jacob shot me." "No, Jacob shot himself." "No, Jacob was shot." I took a deep breath and watched while her older brother corrected her so she got her story right. "He was in the hospital, but now he's dead."
"Yes, honey." I said. "That's true and very sad." Jocob's mom texted Donna and told her that she was so grateful to have the kids playing with other kids and out of the house, which is so sad and overwhelming right now. "They deserve a normal day." she said.
I am glad to say that they did play. We took them to the park, fed them mac and cheese, and let them be rambunctious kids. I hope it helped.