There are perhaps no words to properly express the profound sadness of James Gandolfini’s sudden tragic passing. It is reported that the actor was on a celebratory trip to Italy with his 13-year-old son Michael who had recently graduated from 8th grade. Michael demonstrated bravery and good sense when he called for help upon acknowledging that his father was in crisis. Gandolfini supposedly died shortly after he arrived at the hospital.
Since the first reports of his passing, the news has been flooded with stories about the actor, who in contrast to his portrayal of a bold and brash mob boss on HBO’s hit series the Sopranos, has been described as kind, gentle and caring; a big man with an even bigger heart.
The days that lie ahead for his young son will certainly be difficult. It is hard to truly understand the immediate impact on a child upon losing a parent. It is even more challenging to fathom the road ahead for a child who not only witnessed his father’s passing but also was alone on a trip with him in a foreign country. It would be unfair to try to pretend to understand the emotional imprint such a situation can imbue.
And while the world weeps for James Gandolfini, hearts break for his son Michael. The hope is certainly that with time and distance young Michael will begin to heal the hurt, shock and horror he may be experiencing in the aftermath of this tragedy.
Can we ever really prepare our children for such an unexpected series of events? Can we prepare ourselves?
We are once again reminded that the world in which we live can be so fragile. Perhaps such tragedies offer us a teaching moment, a reminder to communicate to our kids how we think and feel about them. To look for an explanation to such events would be frustrating and fruitless.
How do we explain such a profound loss to our own children? It is difficult to know. Some situations certainly elude explanation.
As parents it is important to be mindful that many of our kids will hear about this tragic loss as most mediums of media have been broadcasting this story. It is hard to know if young teens will connect with the idea that this tragedy could have happened to anyone. The illusion of invulnerability-the natural inclination for teens to believe that bad things only happen to other people will perhaps serve as a safety net from such a scenario. Parents, however, should be prepared to respond reassuringly if their own teen expresses concern and/or anxiety about the possibility of suddenly experiencing such a loss. While perhaps to promise that such a tragedy is not plausible would be remiss, reassurance that risks are rather low in this realm are a fair and honest portrayal.
The road ahead for Michael will indeed be difficult. While the world mourns for his father it is important to a moment to think of him.