I have read several helpful blog posts by other folks on the topic of the Newtown shooting tragedy. I have found their perspectives helpful and they have been able to put into words what I have been feeling, so I thought I’d share some of them here along with my own reflections, and how a cancer history ties in. A link is provided if you would like to read each person’s post…and I would recommend it!
In one of Brene Brown’s latest posts, she writes: “Like so many Americans, my experience doesn’t align with the politics of either side. My story is not political – it’s about family and culture. It’s also deeply personal.” She then explains that her uncle was shot and killed in a random act of violence. She said, “Several people wrapped their sympathies in gun control arguments and it was devastating to me. I just wanted to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually held. I just wanted my pain and disbelief to be acknowledged.”
Like Dr. Brown, my experience doesn’t align with the politics of either side, and I think many of us have found this event to be deeply personal. For me, many personal connections came up. I was once a classroom teacher. My sister has taught kindergarten for many years at a small-town school where her 10 year old daughter attends. A family member has mental illness, (paranoid type schizophrenia), and has refused treatment for many years. With my work over the past 6 years as a counselor with children and adolescents and in a crisis response program with adults, (a large percentage with serious mental illness), I have seen and heard my fair share of aggression and violence in thought and action. You can probably imagine what triggers have been brought up for me. As a mental health provider, I always wondered, “Did I do enough?” Yes, this event was personal and certainly pushed my buttons, and I will be joining the conversation about the need for better mental health care.
Brene Brown also writes about her observations over the last few days and I think she has some wise things to say. One thing she said was, “Politics is easier than grief. To skip over feeling and rush to policy-making dehumanizes the process and weakens policy.” I had been thinking how quickly people jumped into politics with this event. I mean right away…like the day it happened. This was somewhat surprising to me. I understand that we want to think there is a solution and preventive actions we can take, and so we will talk about gun control and about mental health treatment. These conversations need to happen, but these conversations and whatever action comes of them will not bring back those children. So again it comes down to grief, the natural response to loss. We need to leave room for grief. I understand it is human nature to tend to want to jump to action without leaving room for feelings, but I agree with Dr. Brown that doing so weakens any action we do take.
In her blog post, The Newton, CT Shooting—The Losses Have Become Too Great to Bear, Nancy Stordahl writes, “The losses resulting from [the shooting] are losses felt by the entire country, perhaps even by the entire world. Of course, the losses felt by the family members directly impacted by this horrific event are of an entirely different and unimaginable magnitude, but the losses none-the-less are felt by the rest of us as well.”
I thought Nancy articulated this with grace. The losses have been felt in a deep way by most people I know. And I think it is important to acknowledge our feelings of loss and tend to them in some way. I’m sure for many of you, this grieving process is not new. Loss comes with the diagnosis of cancer. You lost who you once were and you lost many things because of cancer. The feelings are all too familiar.
Fellow mental health provider, Dr. Ann Becker Schutte, writes a number of helpful tips for taking care of ourselves these days in her blog post, Self Care in the Face of Tragedy. She talks about making space for your own feelings and reaching out for support. She advises us to limit our exposure to social media and news coverage…I know I’ve had to cut myself off a number of times. Ann talks about allowing ourselves to be grateful for the safety or comfort that we have available to us. She also reminds us to breathe deeply and listen to what our bodies and hearts are asking for.
I liked what my friend Kendall Scott, Holistic Health Coach and author of Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen, had to say in her post, Food is Love: “In the last few days, I’ve thought about how much I want to offer kindness and compassion to every person, everyday, myself included.” I think events such as these make us grateful for what we have, make us want to pull those we love closer, and I’m with Kendall, it has made me want to be more kind and compassionate to others and myself. It has made us all realize how precious time on this earth is, how important love and connection is.
My business coach, Dr. Susan Giurleo, in her post, Now is the Time to Passionately Recommit to Your Values and Mission, writes: “I implore you on this week before Christmas, as we try to comprehend a tragedy bigger than any of us, to recommit to your values. Build a mission to make the world better in the one special way YOU can.” This is such an important message. We each have something we can do to make the world a better place, even if it doesn’t involve gun laws or mental health. We each need to do those things, no matter how small they may be.
In the face of this tragedy, what tiny step can you take toward making the world a better place today?
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