Opinion | Joe Biden’s Grief, and That of Others

More from our inbox:

To the Editor:

Re “Biden Is Still Mourning a Son, but Some Can’t Bear His Grief” (front page, Sept. 5):

I am appalled that The New York Times saw fit to print criticism of how President Biden mourns the loss of his son Beau. However much you may fear losing your own living children, I assure you that the loss is more painful and lasts longer than you can possibly imagine.

I had the privilege during his primary campaign of speaking to Mr. Biden about my own loss, and he was lovely. I am one of many who has found his empathy deeply moving.

That being said, it is ludicrous to expect that every single person would be satisfied, especially parents for whom the loss is so fresh. I grieve for all the parents who lost their children in Kabul, and I respect all of their reactions to Mr. Biden, positive or negative.

In the freshness of my own grief, what I wanted from people changed day by day. On Monday, I would be angry that nobody mentioned my loss, and on Tuesday I would be angry that someone had.

A more productive article would have discussed the grieving process after losing a child — not at all the same as losing a parent, as painful as that can be.

Mercury Schroeppel
San Francisco

To the Editor:

As the mother of a dearly loved adult child who died of cancer, I read this article with keen interest. When my daughter Rachel died, I learned that many people who try to offer comfort want to show that they understand how the bereaved person feels, and attempt to do that by mentioning deaths of people (and sometimes pets!) to whom they have been close. Friends and colleagues constantly told me about when their parents had died (which is not at all like having a child die). Each of us wants to talk — and hear — about our own beloved person.

We all know that Joe Biden grieves. He doesn’t have to persuade any Gold Star family that he understands how they feel. What he needs to do is serve that family’s need by allowing that family to talk about the son or daughter they have lost. Mark Schmitz rightly wants to talk and hear about Jared, his son, not about anyone else.

Florence Wagman Roisman

To the Editor:

So it’s a front-page story that President Biden talks about his grief too much? And — God forbid — he ruminates on that when he should be offering more appropriate sympathy to all the many grieving people he meets?

The man first lost his wife and daughter, then his son. Judging him comes from an ignorance of the human need to express loss. What people have liked about Joe is his humanness. Now we blame him for it.

Elizabeth Powell
St. Louis
The writer is a retired psychologist and psychology professor at St. Louis Community College.

To the Editor:

Acutely grieving family members have no responsibility to bear President Biden’s grief. Each person has the right to feel his or her own intense personal grief without the burden of empathizing with another.

As a physician I understand that at the most intimate of moments with a family processing their acute loss, my personal history is often of little or no comfort. You need to let a grieving person and family lead and put aside any of your own past losses.

It is unlikely that President Biden meant to be disrespectful or hurtful, but he was oblivious to these families’ deep pain.

Linda Volpe

Progress for the Disabled

To the Editor:

Re “Games Draw Focus to Treatment of Japan’s Disabled” (news article, Sept. 4):

Thanks for the article spotlighting Japan’s efforts to make Tokyo more accessible to people with disabilities in the years leading up to the Paralympic Games.

It took me back to when I lived there in the 1990s and fractured a metatarsal bone. I had to use crutches, which meant that the otherwise excellent transportation system was off limits to me.

It is exciting to read about all that Japan has done to make its society more inclusive. Yes, there is still so much to do (here, too, in the United States, by the way), but it’s important to take a moment to celebrate the progress. The fact that Japanese society is rapidly aging makes these structural changes all the more essential.

Loren Edelson
Montebello, N.Y.

Hybrid Learning Works. Let’s Keep Using It.

To the Editor:

Re “Rice University Turns to Online Classes as Virus Surges in Houston” (news article, Aug. 21):

Many universities have turned to online learning to manage pandemic safety. But there is an opportunity here also: to rethink higher education for the long term.

At Imperial College London our experience over the past 18 months suggests an alternative future for pedagogy — one where in-person teaching is focused on the highest value interactions between teachers and students. We already knew that didactic lectures can be more effective online, as students access them at their own pace.

The pandemic and lockdowns forced us to pivot fast. When students could not attend labs, we mailed hundreds of “lab in a box” kits to students worldwide. With travel restricted, our geoscience students took a virtual field trip to the Pyrenees. We conducted final medical exams online, allowing hundreds of new doctors to work on the frontline in public hospitals.

Hybrid learning works. It costs serious money, but the potential impact — and wider reach — is thrilling.

The pandemic has been devastating to the lives and livelihoods of millions. It has hit students hard. We owe it to them and to our communities not to waste this crisis. Universities must change to deliver an education fit for the future.

Ian Walmsley
The writer is provost at Imperial College London.

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