There are no words to adequately express our feelings about the horrific massacre of small children and adults that has occurred in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, December 14, 2012. Twenty children and six adults lost their lives in this bucolic New England town.
Much is written about helping children cope with violence and trauma. I will attach links to good articles that will help you talk with your children about this unthinkable trauma.
I want to focus on two things you can do immediately that will help everyone, regardless of age to deal with your pain and help you move forward.
The first is to limit your exposure to media. With technology bombarding us, it is difficult to get away from the constant stream of information. While we are mindful that children need to have their exposure limited, we often forget to take care of ourselves, rationalizing that we need to know what is happening on a moment to moment basis.
Watching and re-watching trauma events can create a circuit in our brain and then, when we step away from the images, we are shocked and terrified to find they keep playing in our memory –over and over. Remember the horror of 9-11 or the explosion of the Challenger? Years later, those of us old enough to remember, have these images imbedded in our brain forever. Over exposure to traumatic images does not make us more informed, it simply works to traumatize us repeatedly. Limit your viewing/listening to a few minutes, a few times a day and stick with that plan. A good rule of thumb- watch/listen to the news as you usually would.
Shutting down the constant stream information may make you feel uncomfortable. We equate knowing with a sense of order. At this time more information is not helpful in creating a sense of order. So, what can help with all these unresolved feelings?
This leads to my second suggestion- Do something to help. Meaningful action is empowering. It reminds us that we are not powerless and that we are capable of making a difference in the lives of others. Before you start thinking, “No one person can make a difference”, think again. Look at the difference one unstable person made in Newtown. If one person is capable of so much evil, certainly one person is also capable of much good.
Here are a couple of ideas.
- There are organizations collecting stuffed toys for the children of Sandy Hook elementary school. Rather than stress about getting everything done for your holiday plans, take your children out and purchase something cuddly for a Sandy Hook child. The collection will be on the second floor of Macy's at West Farms Mall and also at Winterfest in Bushnell Park Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
- Call the Red Cross, Newtown Youth and Family Services or Newtown Parent Connection and ask what you can do. You can send your check donations to:
Sandy Hook School Support Fund
c/o Newtown Savings Bank
39 Main Street, Newtown CT 06470
- Take your children to a vigil, a religious service or another community gathering. Grieving together is a powerful healer and grounds us. It is why funerals and memorial services are so important. Being with others takes us out of our self centered lives and gives us a sense of connection, community and a greater good. It reminds us we are not alone.
- Gun control is only part of this complicated situation, but it is a large part. Let’s keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them. Write letters to your state representatives, senators, legislators and every politician you can think of. We can use our collective power for good-Let’s work to avoid this tragedy ever happening again.
Finally in this season of celebration step away of the madness and stress of the insignificant-don’t worry if the roast will be perfect or the sweater the right size. Experience grace, and deep gratitude for all that you have in your life. What we can take away from this tragedy is that life is unpredictable and we need to cherish what we have. Treasure each day and don’t sweat the small stuff.