By now, you are all sadly aware of the great tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Our hearts are heavy, and we are stunned by this cruel loss of the lives of not only adults but of twenty innocent young children. There really are no words to describe adequately how I am feeling, and I am sure that your thoughts and feelings echo mine.
This horrific tragedy is despicable, no matter the time of year, but it also only added to the difficulty of the holiday season for many of us. I feel like a pall has fallen over the nation, and we wonder how something so unspeakable could even occur, even in the darkest of minds . . .
I want to mention that sometimes when something so tragic happens, is very public, (on all the radio and TV stations, Facebook, and elsewhere), and everyone is talking about it—like the school shootings in Connecticut now—it can profoundly affect those of us who have had someone very close to us die; in this case, especially children. It can bring you back to the time your child, sibling, grandchild, stepchild, niece, or nephew first died. That can be especially true when it was a sudden and unexpected death. You may feel increased depression and even physically ill. You might have flashbacks to the time of their death. This is not uncommon at all and happens often in cases such as this. I recall our first chapter meeting following 9/11 and the Columbine shootings. Nearly all who attended those meetings felt these unspeakable tragedies very deeply and also physically.
It helps to talk to others about your feelings, especially to someone else who will understand. That is why the meetings following 9/11 and Columbine were so invaluable. We all learned that we were not alone in our feelings, and just knowing that was comforting.
Pay close attention to how you are feeling and take especially good care of yourselves. Our immune systems take a pounding when we are stressed, both emotionally and physically. Get enough sleep; take naps if you need them; take vitamins; make healthy eating choices; exercise to get those endorphins owing. Do what you need to do, and be gentle with your fragile hearts and psyches.
I would also recommend (I am doing this for myself) taking breaks away from the glare of the media. The stations have been bombarding us with news about this tragedy, and I believe it is in our own best interests to do other things, such as watch a movie, read, get some fresh air, anything to turn the attention away from the constant noise of such a horrific event. We know what happened.
I don’t think we need the constant reminders and pictures. We know all we need to know; that a terrible, horrible crime was committed. We know there are families who are devastated by what has occurred, and we know the difficult journey that lies ahead for them.
My prayers continue for all affected. We who have lost loved ones know the difficult road ahead for the survivors. I am just stunned by all of this, so much so that mere words are inadequate.
TCF National began working immediately, brainstorming how the organization could best help the families and the community. Donations continue to come in for TCF’s emergency fund, which is used in situations like this to help the chapters cope with any shortfalls in bereavement materials and to benefit the families in ways deemed most helpful to their grief journey. To donate, go to www.compassionatefriends.org and click on “Donation.” Fill in the donation amount and on the next page, in the comment box, write “Emergency Fund.” Those who are able can help in this manner, but all of us can think about the secondary victims left behind to live with this sorrowful event and, if you are a prayer, this is something we can do as well.
For those of you with smaller surviving children who, no doubt, will be fearful and questioning about the school shootings, I especially like a quote from the incomparable Mr. Rogers that a very good friend of mine made me aware of.
It is not only helpful for children, but I think for us as well: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”
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