There are some days where everything they teach you in library school goes completely out the window, and does nothing to prepare you for how to handle things. There is no reader’s advisory class, no technical services semester, no reference or database class, no children’s and young adult literature class that can prepare you for when one of your kids (because really, they consider me theirs, so how can I not consider them my kids?) comes to you in tears because death sneaked into their lives somehow and stole something precious and irreplaceable- a friend, a neighbor, a relative, a parent.
This happened to me this week. One of my kids came in to my office in tears looking for a safe place to break down. Someone special to them had been killed accidentally two days before, and they only learned about it earlier in the day, and needed somewhere quiet and safe to grieve and to try to make sense of something so senseless. There are no words that you can give that they haven’t heard from their parents/guardians, their teachers, or their guidance counselors. The old standbys of “Everything happens for a reason,” “They’re looking down at us from heaven,” “They’re in a better place,” “Soon you’ll remember all the happy times you had together,” don’t work and get thrown by the wayside. All you can do is to listen and to let them get things out, and be perhaps the one person in their life who doesn’t judge or give platitudes that have no meaning to a twelve year old whose encounter with death may in fact have been the first in their entire life.
Nothing in library school can teach you this. There is no class. This is not a reference interview. There is no practicum. There is no thesis paper. This is the downside to being part of the beating heart of your community- in order to experience the magnificent highs, you have to share in the shattering lows. But the fact that I *am* a person my kids feel they can turn to when they have problems means that I am doing something valuable within this community. And that is worth the heartache.