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Hurting Today In Wake of Newtown Shooting

Our hearts are aching today with the news of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Here are a few tips on how to cope with this tragedy.

The tragedy unfolding today in our neighboring state of Connecticut is sucking the breath out of me.  I don’t know anyone personally in Newtown, CT, but my eyes keep welling up with tears. My heart hurts. Badly. 

The news of this school massacre is truly horrific. At this point, we know very little and do well not to speculate about what is not yet known. What is confirmed is that 20 young precious children and seven or more adults have been murdered by gunshot in an elementary school setting. What should be a sacrosanct place was violated in the most extreme of ways.

Our hearts ache for the parents, siblings, grandparents, extended families and neighbors in this community. The news of the massacre is filling up the television stations, internet news feeds and newspaper copy. It’s a headline we wish we would never see.

But it is our gruesome reality today and we must start to grapple with the tragedy.

Figuring out how to stop this kind of gun violence is part of our task. There’s others.  But, for tonight, right now as the news unfolds, maybe it's best to focus on taking care of ourselves and our families emotionally. 

Everyone who hears about this killing spree would do well to get some psychological first aid. It’s good to realize this emotional need, even if the closest we are to the massacre is hearing/reading/seeing a report from one of our electronic screens. Kids included.

What I mean is this: news like this hits us hard emotionally, even if we are safe physically. News like this makes us feel vulnerable and wonder about our own safety. I immediately thought about my children, spouse, and other family members. I immediately thought about all the youngsters still in school at the nursery, elementary, and high schools that I live near. News like this can traumatize us. News like this does traumatize us. We can’t just shrug it off. 

Psychological first aid today might include:

  • Giving those you love a long and intense hug today when you next see them. Wrap your arms around yourself, if you don’t have a loved one or close neighbor nearby, and give yourself a hug. Take a deep breath and count your blessings.   
  • Protecting yourself and your children, especially your children, from being over exposed to news about this tragedy. We know from research that children who just watch news about violence, especially violence against other children, can be upset emotionally in significant ways. They don’t have to be present at the actual event to become traumatized.  You can keep your children from getting hurt in this way. This news has appropriately taken over the airways, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it create potential emotional harm to your children.  Best, in my professional opinion is this–don’t let young children watch news that includes violent images or descriptions at all.  Let them get whatever information they need of news like this from someone who knows them best and understands their needs best—you, their parent.  Be cautious with older children as well to avoid overexposure. Provide a safe and secure place physically and emotionally as well for your youngsters. Keep your usual routine for the weekend in place; it gives a needed sense of security. 
  • Reach out to others. Find a way to connect with someone else. Doing so is reassuring. We need reassurance on a day like today. Reaching out to others (and being reached out to) during a tragedy can be powerful and healing. Many are still reeling from the tragedy and troubles of another crisis—Hurricane Sandy. The pile-up factor can make us even more vulnerable, making it all the more important to consider psychological first aid.

We will know more soon. Further psychological first aid may be needed for some of us. School counselors and other counselors can be helpful for debriefing and crisis work. 

But for today, ground yourself, take good care emotionally of yourself and your children, and try to reach out and connect with others. I’m glad I have a potluck meal and event with other families planned for tonight. I’m sure there will be a lot more hugs than usual. And that’ll be a good thing. 

ingeborg oppenheimer December 18, 2012 at 12:48 AM
there is a comment after liza long's article written by a person who has lived with mental illness for what sounds like a lifetime, and who reflects the kind of self-awareness and understanding of her illness that is so essential for healing to at least begin. perhaps the effort to improve treatment for such conditions should start with contributions by the sufferers themselves. [i tried to paste the comment but got a "tolstoy" message about its being too long :-(]
Racman63 December 18, 2012 at 01:03 AM
10 Things we can do now in response to Newtown that doesn’t involve waiting for our legislators to enact new laws or pending laws. 1) Do not vacation in the States of Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania. According to tracetheguns.org, these states with lax gun laws are known proliferators of illegally bought and smuggled weapons used in violent crimes in other states. 2) Occupy NRA headquarters in Fairfax Va. Identify the names of the actual NRA lobbyists and publish them. 3) Block entrances to gun shows and gun shops the same way anti-abortion activists do at women’s clinics 4) Name Names. See list of the top congressional recipients of campaign donations from the NRA. Vilify, shame, embarrass, disclose.
Racman63 December 18, 2012 at 01:03 AM
5) Bullets are made of lead, a known toxic substance. Petition town governments to enact extremely stringent and costly restrictions on disposal of lead at shooting ranges. 6) Boycott Walmart. Walmart is the nation’s leading retailer of guns and gun related products. 7) Name more Names: ID the CEO’s, directors, and majority shareholders of the major gun manufacturers in the U.S. among them, The Freedom Group, maker of the Bushmaster automatic weapon (owned by Cerberus Capital, a private equity firm) 8) Contact your Congress person and U.S. Senator and tell them how you feel about gun violence and what YOU intend to do about it. Do not ask them to do anything. You tell them what You Are going to do. Shame them in to following; do not wait for them to lead 9) Organize a massive rally on D.C. of anti-gun violence proponents; the rally must be held while Congress is in session so the law-makers can see, hear and feel our presence. 10) Start a grass roots organization to repeal the second amendment that includes confiscation of existing of firearms. Send the issue of firearm ownership back to the States where the individual States can issue licenses for hunting only.
ingeborg oppenheimer December 18, 2012 at 01:29 AM
with regard to the 2nd amendment all that's needed, actually, is repeal of district of columbia v. heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), in which the court ruled that the second amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia. ownership rights should be tied to military and police needs, with very limited permission for the public otherwise.
FJT December 27, 2012 at 05:01 PM
So, here we are today, certain of just a little more than when this sentence in the article above was written: "At this point, we know very little and do well not to speculate about what is not yet known." I've never seen so much misinformation and disinformation in the wake of a tragic event. And here I'm talking about what the so-called professional journalists have provided us in the way of hard news about what happened in Newtown. Looking for more information, I began digging on the Internet and found the UK news media had far more to offer in the way of facts than the US news media. I also discovered some interesting perspectives on YouTube that were extremely disturbing in terms of the probing questions raised by average citizens (not journalists) and their implications going forward. Though some of the videos are absurd, others clearly reveal that the professional journalists -- upon which we, out of habit, depend on for our news -- have been totally outclassed by talented amateurs. Whatever happened to investigative journalism by professional reporters? All I know is that it's pretty much gone, and if you want to truly understand the news today, you need to do some serious digging and analysis of your own.

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