Devastating Disappointment and Unthinkable Grief

November 7, 2019

Dear Families,

I received permission from both my son and my daughter to share these life events with you. Before you read further, please be advised, this Wire contains hard information. I shared previously that I will not shy away from hard topics. I remain firm in that commitment. I do not take my role as principal lightly. I spend sleepless nights worrying about each and every one of my students. I desire first and foremost to support them as they work their way out of the cocoon of childhood into the freedom of young adulthood. But I know too well that it is a road filled with heartache and challenge. Our greatest responsibility as parents is to empower our children to stand firm in what is right and build strength and resilience to face a harsh world. And to teach our children that their failures and poor choices do not define them. They build within them character that will allow them to choose wisely when it matters most.

When Hunter was 9 years old, his baseball team went to the World Series. They took second place. Two weeks later, we received a call from his coach. He communicated that Hunter was being cut from the team because he “does not have what it takes to go to the next level.” I repeat. He was 9 years old.  We spent weeks devastated by this news. If you know anything about our family, you know that we eat, sleep, and breathe baseball. We remain convinced that somehow this is not an even year. It can’t be. The San Francisco Giants failed to make their way to the World Series.

Looking back, we realize that being cut from his team was the best thing that could have happened to Hunter.  But hindsight is 20/20. As a mom, I wanted to give the coach a piece of my mind. As an Italian, let me tell you, I had a large piece to give him. How dare he? My son was 9 years old. I don’t know about you, but I am raising my all-time favorite player. I could not swallow what I believed to be the greatest injustice of all time. But let me repeat, being cut was the best thing that could have ever happened to Hunter.

He determined that he would do whatever it took to prove to the coach he had what it took. Through grit and determination, he battled to improve.  He worked every day. Three years later, his coach, the very same one who cut him, came to a game to watch Hunter play. At the end of the game, he invited Hunter to join his 13 Majors team.  Hunter’s 1st place World Series Championship trophy sits high on his dresser to this day.

After attending two college showcases the summer of his junior year, he has verbal commits from two colleges. Why? Certainly not because we fixed anything for him. We had to swallow the bitter pill of disappointment. He alone controlled his path. He buckled down and battled through disappointment, rejection, and heartache. After his last showcase, I asked him if he was ready for the intensity of the next level. His response astounded me. “I don’t know, mom. I really don’t. But I know that I will never regret the pain and heartache of baseball. It taught me who I am and what I’m made of. So, no matter what, it was worth it.”

Fast forward to 2014. In a span of 18 months, we walked the road of unthinkable grief. Our daughter suffered the loss of 5 friends. Each and every one of them to suicide.  Each and every one of them was an overachiever. Academic powerhouses to be sure.  By all appearances, their outer shells portrayed to the world they were every parent’s dream. Each and every one of them left notes indicating they could not cope with their failures and disappointments. Two of these precious children communicated in their letter, they wished they had had to face struggle on their own. They wished their parents had let them fail when they were young. They wished they endured disappointment. Following these deaths, we learned that Douglas County has one of the highest teen suicide rates in the nation. Yes, the nation.

I share this with you because I know that it is hard to watch your child struggle. I know that it is hard to watch your child endure disappointment. But I know that each of those struggles when faced head-on by your child, allows strength to build. Each creates deep resilience within your child. It builds strength and resilience within them so that when you can’t fix it or you are not available, they can. I implore you to walk alongside your child in their disappointments and frustrations.  But empower them to fix it. Please don’t rescue them. Please.

I love your children. Every. Single. One. I would give my life without hesitation to keep them safe. But I want them to struggle. I want them to endure disappointment. I want them to navigate consequences now when the impact is minimal in the grand scheme of their life. They need it. They can handle it.  They will survive it. So, will you. I promise.

Honored to Serve You All,

Janet Worley