Going about my day as though it was normal meant that I hadn’t come in contact with the horrible news of the shootings in Connecticut during the morning. I worked to get a personal blog entry written, and then posted. As I turned to Facebook, it was there I saw the first inclinations that something was wrong. So very wrong.
And so I have sat through the last several hours like most of the people I know; wondering if I should go get my kids from school, feeling sick to my stomach, thinking over and over what the parents must be going through, and generally struggling with the this-doesn’t-make-sense sensation.
Of course, as the story unfolds, we want to know as much as we can, almost, with a crazy hope that somewhere in the information is the morsel of explanation which gives us the way to find a reason this horrible shooting happened. Without doubt, we reach out to each other by phone, text, and Facebook, because we need to express our confusion and have others see our distress. Misery needs company! And in all that communication around, as well as on the various news coverages, it’s already evident that “reasons” for the shootings are being adopted. Then, in a natural progression, along with those explanations, ideas for prevention are being grasped for.
There needs to be more counseling available, better meds, and less video games. Violence on television brings this about, or it’s just the end of days as foretold by some prophet. Gun laws are outdated, or a clear allowance for criminals to do this kind of thing, or schools should be more protected by regulations.
I feel rage and horror, and it’s clear that many others do, too, and I think it’s incredibly natural to look for solutions to make the world back into the “safe place” it seemed to be when everyone woke up this morning and nobody thought their loved one or tiny kindergartener was going to be shot at school.
We all have a problem, though, since none of our solutions will bring back those who were killed. I mean, that’s what we really want to accomplish, isn’t it? Yet we know in ourselves rather quickly – despite the number of fantasies that we’ve ALL had today about turning back the clock and stopping the shooter – that the only thing we can really do is stop it from happening again. Somehow.
So, as part of my own processing of this horrible hell, I wanted to gently suggest what I can on that front. I don’t know the whole story, and probably we never will, about why a 20-year-old man would do this. I don’t know what his psyche was, though I’m certain there is no one thing that can be blamed for such a tragedy. It’s probably so, so many things. People are complex, and very intricate. So, I thought I’d offer a thought for the future that moves past whatever else we all may decide to do from blaming video games to gun laws. It’s not the solution of absolution, but I think it’s something:
Allow grief about today’s shootings.
Maybe it sounds simple and obvious, but it isn’t. Not really.
Our culture shuts emotions down. We morph confusion and sadness into anger; not that anger is inappropriate or bad in any way, just that it’s not always the initial or real experience. People find tragedy like this so hard to comprehend, that they let themselves ignore the event, or simply turn off the feeling.
For ourselves, and even more so for our children, we must look at the lost lives of these human beings, and go through the grief of losing members of our nation, pieces of our future, hopes of so many families, and fellow members of the human race. We must not hide our tears or our horror from our children, despite how desperately we want to. And believe me – I want to. But by staying present with the grief of this event, especially in the same space as our children, we accomplish two very important things…
- We teach empathy. We encourage the world around us to embrace one another in heartache, rather than turning away for our own selfish needs. True grieving brings an awareness of life’s fragility, and the reality of other people that prevents most people from harming others – even when they’re justifiably mad. And it is in the grieving process that we engender and find our resilience and strength. The kind of real human strength that loves and cares about others, instead of shutting them out. And also…
- We witness for each other. Seeing one another’s loss and heartache and pain is often the one and only thing we really CAN do! Though we are not allowed to bring back lost loved ones, witnessing their loss with eyes wide open, though often filled with tears, is our way of standing together through life. And by connecting with other people this way, through grief and empathy, we show that love is powerful, and we teach our children that love is powerful. It isn’t a magic wand, or a time machine, but it’s the best and brightest we’ve got. And, it turns out, if we learn to love each other through being open-eyed grieving witnesses to tragedy, there will simply be less tragedy by choice.
Nothing is going to make today okay. Nothing. But there is another sunrise coming tomorrow morning – one that will dawn horrible and empty for too many stunned and devastated families. If we let them know they’re not alone, it is the best we can do, I think, to make tomorrow less implosive.
And to be clear, I don’t mean to witness by watching as much sensationalized news coverage as possible. The spirit and intent of news coverage is so often all wrong. Rather, I mean the real grief of simply pondering the event, and the loss, and letting our children know that our hearts are heavy but resilient. Pray or ponder to know what you can do that may lift the souls of people, including yourself. God does not carry the burdens of the families who lost loved ones because enough of us asked in prayer that it would be so; what God can and will do, has been and is being done. Let us pray to know or consider ourselves what WE can do, how WE can help, and how WE can make better and more loving people of ourselves and our families.
Unless, of course, you already know what you can do; I’d bet most of us already do. Let’s love one another more. Maybe you think guns should or shouldn’t be more available. Maybe more government involvement is somehow the key – maybe less. But I feel absolutely certain that if we were kinder, gentler, and more honest about our grief when grief-worthy events like today’s tragedy happen, we will help prevent more horror in the future.
And just as important – our witnessing grief is the smallest but truest of ways we can immediately hold up those dear people of Connecticut.
So if you feel sad, or a pit in your stomach, don’t chase it away – see it through. For it is part of our human experience, meant to bring up the resilience within us. We all need more of that right now.