By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
There are times when we are healed by sharing the pain, and clearly, the recent Newtown, Connecticut tragedy is one of those times. As I listen to the news, I can hear how it connects with people on so many levels that the nation seems to be hurting.
It has hit everyone on a personal level. Many are in mourning for the victims. Parents not involved in this (or any other similar) incident, are left to hold their children with the unimaginable thought of what it would be like to lose them. For some, the incident triggers previous grief.
Anyone who has or works with children is also left with the task of talking with them and comforting them. The most basic advice for them is to keep the age of their children in mind and to adjust how much they say and how they say it to the individual needs of that child. For more about this, check out these resources: Helping your child manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting and Tips for talking with and helping children and youth cope after a disaster or traumatic event.
In addition to these very personal issues and reactions, people argue over what drove the young man to commit such a horrendous act, with the hope of finding a way to prevent similar events in the future. There’s the issue of gun control; and the amount of violence in our society (in the media, in the movies, in video games). There’s also the unpopular discussion of caring for those in need of mental health services. Just maybe, we reason, we can honor the lives of the victims by making changes that will improve the care and safety of people in our society.
As you work through your reactions, it’s important to manage your distress. Take a break from the news sometimes; too much of it can be overwhelming. Make sure that you balance the pain of this event with spending time with people and doing things that feel good or bring you a sense of satisfaction or meaning. And remember to do the basics in caring for yourself: eat well, sleep enough, and get exercise.
Most importantly, honor all of your experiences. Your expressions of grief, sadness, anger, frustration, and confusion (to name just a few of the felt emotions) are necessary to heal individually and as a nation. It’s in talking and expressing ourselves from our hearts, along with being truly heard, that allows us to heal.
So, I invite you to offer your comments. Whether you are just expressing how you feel, or calling for some kind of action, you can help yourself and others by sharing it here.
If you would like to join a general discussion about this topic on the Relationships and Coping Community, click here.