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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 the 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 toys will be collected 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. 

 http://oldweb.naeyc.org/ece/2003/01.asp

http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/news/talking.html?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=channel&utm_campaign=PBS

 © 2012 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice and is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.

 

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8 Comments

  1. CJ Golden on the 15. Dec, 2012 remarked #

    Amen!

  2. Beth Shaw on the 15. Dec, 2012 remarked #

    Thank you for such a poised, rich, and action oriented piece. As a School Counselor,I have been flooded with calls from.friends, families and parents about how to respond. People need to feel like the can DO SOMETHING and your piece gives them some wonderful, timely and realistic things to DO.
    On a personal note, I had also fielded .questions from my own 3. Children 5, 8, and 10 and responded with age appropriate answers. In addition to adults, older children will look for what they can do. Our 3 children made a list of 20 items. (One for each child lost) and made a Newtown Promise to DO something kind to contribute to making the world a better place. One thing in each child’s honor. Items such as, promise to plant a tree, promise to say a prayer, promise to write a thank you letter to a teacher, promise to help a neighbor by bringing in their trash can, promise to donate coins in Salvation Army Pot outside Price Chopper…little attainable, age appropriate acts of kindness. We Hung up their promises and intend to continue to make new lists each time the list is complete.

    It is a small way that each little life can “CONTINUE” to contribute, 20 promises at a time. If any of your readers are interested in getting a copy of the “promise” page we created, please feel free to email me and I can forward a copy to you. Simple word document.

    Prayers and promises…

    Beth

    • Donna Ferber on the 15. Dec, 2012 remarked #

      What a wonderful idea-a promise list! Perhaps, it is something we can all do-children and adults alike. I especially like the idea of renewing the list. We are not done when we do 20 good things, it needs to be an ongoing list. Thank you Beth for sharing your inspiring thoughts.

  3. Rose on the 15. Dec, 2012 remarked #

    Volunteering, helping at a animal shelter iusually adds balance of prespective when people related tradegies are overwhelming for me. So many ways to help and the appreciation is immediate and gratifying in the love from pets in need.

  4. Angela on the 15. Dec, 2012 remarked #

    Love that idea Beth! What a beautiful and helpful post. Our tv doesn’t even work and I am so grateful for that. It truly helps. You are so right that we retraumatize ourselves in the name of “keeping informed”. I love the list of 20 or even 26. I haven’t told my kids the exact number because I was afraid my daughter (especially) would flip. So I said that the number wasn’t the focus just that they were loved so very much and one life was too much. The number may or may not come up later. Maybe it wasn’t the right move. I wanted to be as honest as possible but it was a tough call.
    Thanks so much for your support.
    xoxo

    • Donna Ferber on the 16. Dec, 2012 remarked #

      I think each parent must decide how to “edit” the information they share with their children about tragic events. If she really feels the need to know, she will ask you. Then tell her calmly and directly. What is most important is she can count on you to be steady. Remind her that while these things can happen, they don’t happen often and reassure her that she is safe.

  5. Holly on the 16. Dec, 2012 remarked #

    Great ideas, this is difficult for everyone to deal with. I’ve tuned out the television and edit what I read in the newspapers because the details are too horrible.

  6. Chip Mues on the 16. Dec, 2012 remarked #

    Donna,
    Great post. The principal of the Catholic elementary school in Dayton where my wife teaches is looking for input for a prayer service he is organizing for the school. She has forwarded to him both your article and Beth Shaw’s excellent idea about creating the “Newtown Wish List”.
    We all in our own way need to help reduce violence and make the world a better place to live.
    Regards,
    Chip

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