Friday, June 4, 2010

The Loss of Young Henry Granju

Henry Granju

I have visited Kate's blog Mamapundit only a handful of times. And yesterday, I learned that she has lost her oldest beloved son, Henry age 18, to drug addiction. The boy of sky and soul and intelligence above these words is that child, her child. She writes with more eloquence and heartbreak than is almost bearable here.

When there is an ending like this, where to begin? What touches us most deeply often resonates intimately. Kate's loss resonates with me because she is a writer, she is pregnant, a mother of siblings, a mother of a beautiful, sensitive teenage boy who was troubled. She is 31 weeks pregnant now with a girl baby, in the first breaths of new air that the world will forever hold for her, a world without her son. Her most recent post is entitled simply Harder Than Labor.

A few weeks ago I wrote Delicate Bulls: An Open Letter to Parents of Teenagers. Reading it again, held in the mind against the image of Henry's face- here, a child clearly deeply loved and who has experienced joy and safety in this life- my tone is more clear, sharper, more shrill: it has the distinct tone of desperation. Of a mother begging to the universal workings to help her protect her son. My Dakota is 16 at the end of this month. I know from reading Kate's blog her pleadings were loud and true and from the straight and endless love of a mother's heart.

What can we do, each and every one of us right now, what can we pledge to do to help protect our young from drug addiction?

If we know a young person- even distantly- and suspect they are in emotional pain, we can find a way to reach out privately to them, in person or letter, and make a real connection. Ask if they are all right. Find a commonality and speak to it. Share an experience, voice your concern. Be the living embodiment of a society that makes nets to catch the falling young.

Make a friendship with a young person. Invest time, energy, maybe even money. If they need tutoring and can't afford it, pay for it. If they need therapy, find a good one and tell them how much you believe a good therapist can help and give them the business card and tell them they have two paid appoinments on you. Take them to eat and listen more than you talk. Don't judge. If you are, hide it. If you don't know an answer, don't make it up, figure out how to find it with them.

Offer solutions. Therapy, meditation, karate, extreme sports, testing for ADD or processing disorders, nutritional changes, books, ideas. Offer solutions and offer gently and understandingly.

NEVER let teenagers use drugs or drink around you or give any impression that you think it's OK to do so. Be understanding that is is a part of teenage culture, that pot and drugs and drinking are all the time, but also be lovingly firm in your expectation that they are not involved in this. Reason Number One is simple: it's illegal. After this you have to be willing to talk and hear things you don't want to hear. Like What do I do when everyone is my group is smoking pot after school and I can't get closer to them without doing it? You will have to answer to these things if you have a teen that really talks to you. If you don't know the answer, read a million books on teenagers. I'll list recommendations at the end of the post.

Give teenagers respect. It can be hard to do, even impossibly frustrating when faced with a passionate know it all sarcastic rude teenager, but find a way. Make eye contact. Don't interrupt. Acknowledge their feelings even if they seem ridiculous or overblown or self absorbed. Reflect what they say back to them God that made you really pissed off. Offering respect of their emotional and mental life is the first and absolutely crucial step towards being able to help in any way. Most teenagers are incredibly confused most of the time. Having the adults around them- even ones they only speak to for a moment- be respectful and kind is important to the way they percieve themselves and their future in the adult world.

Don't lie. Sometimes it's incredibly tempting to exaggerate or even lie when trying to make a very important point to a stubborn teenager; sometimes it feels like the only way to reach them is to inflate everything the way it seems they do. But teenagers are the hounddogs of incincerity and dogma and lies. If you lie they will know or find out and they will not respect you or listen to you the same ever after. I was SO tempted to exagerrate certain facts about pot smoking to my son, but resisted because I knew the backlash would expose me as corrupt. Teenagers above all destain corruption in adults.

Help teenagers find their passions and interests. A teenager who is busy is less dangerous to him or herself. This is certainly- like all these suggestions- no cure all, no saving grace: Henry was passionate about music and guitar- but it helps tremendously. Too much time to sit around and a teen has two things going on: 1 A sense that more exciting things are happening elsewhere and that his or her life SUCKS and 2 Time to dwell in emotions that are easily overblown and lack perspective. Teenagers do not have long view. Their emotions are in a sense like a toddlers: immediate and the only reality. Being involved in sports or groups or classes or projects keeps their life with a sense of purpose which is as of yet to be self-defined for most teens.

Help them stay connected to Nature. The elements are not meant to be apart from our bodies. The woods, water, mountains, dirt, beach and wide world is for our health, both physically and emotionally. This is closely connected to regular physical activity, which is crucial to managing stress and fear and sadness- frequent in the lives of teenagers.

Recommended Reading (linked)

I offer to Kate my love.

*mary* said...

I heard about this after just recently discovering her blog. So heartbreaking. Wonderful post, Maggie.

Elizabeth said...

I have been seeing this boy's face all day, in front of me. This woman's Henry. I, too, read about him and mourn his loss. It's so difficult not to stare at his picture and just ask, "why?" and "what happened?" and know that it could happen to any of us --

Thank you for this post, Maggie. You have such wise words and experience and compassion -- what's so scary is the feeling that we mothers just can't be assured that our love will sustain our children -- at least on this earth. I pray that it does.

mosey (kim) said...

I too read Kate's blog only intermittently but managed to pay a visit only days before Henry passed. Such a heartbreaking tragedy.

A beautiful tribute.

Lydia said...

Henry was astonishingly beautiful, wasn't he? What a tragedy for his mother.
You have settled my mind on something I've wondered all week. I found the Facebook page of the daughter (just out of high school) of my childhood friend who hung himself last month. She found him. I have wondered and wondered if I should send her a friend request, letting her know the connection and just offering sympathy...also saying I understand if she does not want to respond. I believe now that I should do this. Thank you, Maggie.

Annie said...

Hi Maggie,
Thank you for this. I'll be reading the links, and your advice is thorough and sound. My son turned sixteen in March. You remind me that reaching out is always worth it, and we can make a difference, not only in our own family's lives, but in other children's lives. I know a boy who's main support is the high school band, and one particular parent who helps him in any way she can. His own mother is never there. He's a great kid, and he's graduating, more secure in life, partly because of her.

Caroline said...

Maggie, I love all of your recommendations here. I am so scared about the teenage years for my children (even though they are still very young) because I obviously remember being a teenager. I read somewhere that the frontal lobe (responsible for decision-making) of our brains doesn't fully develop until we are around 23 years old. I think it's 24 for boys...

You are so right on with everything you've said here.

I am so sorry to hear about Kate's loss...I am so deeply sorry....

Vashti said...

My heart hurts so much right now.

Claire Marie said...

Thanks for this incredible post. I just started interning at an outpatient program for teens with substance abuse problems, and I'm starting to realize how important the things you bring up really are. My prayers are going out to Henry's family.

Elizabeth @claritychaos said...

Glad I popped by, Maggie. My boys are little. Really little. And I was just lamenting a lack of women in my life with children (boys, especially) older than mine. Women I can look to, whose stories I can listen to.

Just five minutes before I stopped by here, I threw up a few lines snagged from my journal about my middle son, how I project his traits onto a teenage him and I worry about how I'll keep him close.

So this post of yours is very timely for me. Thank you for putting yourself and your stories out there.


Zip n Tizzy said...

Such important words.

I'm so saddened for their loss, but so enlivened by your message. How easy it is to forget even though we knew all of these things once and longed for that grown up ourselves.

Petit fleur said...

He is a beautiful boy. I'm so sorry.

Vodka Mom said...

my heart is broken.


Anonymous said...

I don't know where my other comment went but you hit so many nails on the head there Maggie May!I know that you worry and love your boy so much and I send lots of powerfully good thoughts your way.

Chaos and love said...

Thank you Maggie. Raising a son on my own, you and others are my lifeline to the coming years. What a soulful picture of a boy.

Lovely World said...

This made me cry. I printed it out to save it. I wish someone had reached out to me in those ways when I was growing up. I was pretty successful in school, but emotionally I was not. Thank you for writing this.

* said...

Losing a child must feel like eating your own heart, or little pieces of it as time passes.

The Shelter of Each Other is a most excellent book. Mary Pipher is a woman of wisdom.

Angie Muresan said...

Oh dear Maggie... I am crying as I read this. What a tragedy. The role of a parent is such a weighty one. I wish more would take it as responsibly as you.

Blunt Delivery said...

thank you for posting this.

after being with someone who was addicted to heroin for so many years, i know first hand how imperative it is to keep children away from experimenting with drugs. once they start before or during adolescence, it is almost impossible to break the dependency.

very sad.

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