Thoughts from Dr. Joe: No answer, no solution to loss

Almost two weeks have transpired since we lost a local teen to suicide. I wish I had written this sooner, but the words couldn’t come. I have struggled, hoping to write healing thoughts for his mother, family, La Cañada High, the senior class and the community, but nothing I can say can cure the sorrow we feel from losing him. I remember the young lives lost in Vietnam and I find that no truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness, can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see it through to the end and hope there is some divine redemption from the pain. No pain we suffer is wasted; it teaches us that life on earth is bittersweet.

Does time ever heal our sorrows? I don’t think it does. The hurt remains but the psyche protects us covering our pain with scars. In time, our sorrows lessen. But it’s never gone. Shakespeare wrote the tragedies to remind us that life is fleeting.

I hugged the young man’s mom a few mornings after her loss and felt the pulse of her pain. “Sorry,” was all I could say. Words were all I had and I prayed that they would take away some of her agony. Taking another’s pain binds us together, bringing us in communion with one another. Comforting another is a sacrament but the best that we can do is be near them. A mother’s being is intertwined with her children so I understand T.S. Eliot when he says, “We die with the dying; they depart and we go with them.”

We’ll all lose someone and we’ll never get over their loss; but they live forever in our hearts. Only through faith can we believe that this mom will learn to dance again, even if it’s with a limp. God bless her; God bless all the mothers who endure.

I think of you who are LCHS seniors, students who were in his class. I worry about the impact his loss will have upon you. I was graduated from high school in 1965. The graduates that year were hit hard by the Vietnam War. I became fatalistic and lost hope in a future. There was little life when there was so much death around us.

But don’t become fatalistic. You’ve lost one of your classmates; you’re too young for such an experience. But there’s a saying in Tibet, “Tragedy should be used as a source of strength.” You need to be hopeful and take refuge in each other. Human history is comprised not only of tragedy, but also of courage. What you choose as your focus will determine the fate of the class of 2013. You need to look beyond his loss, but never forget him, and make sure he gets a backward glance every so often. If you only see the tragedy, it will destroy your capacity to do something extraordinary. Come together and deal with his loss. This will be a marvelous way to define who you are.

The Dalai Lama tells us, “No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster.”

I have no answers, no solutions trying to deal with this loss. I wish I knew the secret that could bring peace to his mom and siblings. Maybe a definitive solution is neither possible nor necessary; maybe life just flows.

Prior to Napoleon’s death, he wrote some prose that has a very healing aura. He didn’t write these words because of his pending demise; he wrote them for the living. Let me share his thoughts: “What is the past? What is the present? What is the future? Who are we? What magic liquid is it that shuts us in and keeps us from the things we ought most to know? We live. We breathe and we die in the midst of miracles.”

Maybe we should know that.

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at Visit his website at

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