First Day Back to Sandy Hook Elementary and Grieving

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It has been hard for so many of us during the holiday season that followed the horrific killings in Newtown, CT.  The constant mentions in the news media, and just some quiet moments alone, have sparked a lot of tears for me and for many people I know. I have heard some say that they are tired of hearing about this. I can understand how they might feel this way, but I just don’t want everyone to quickly forget, as Americans seem to be so prone to doing.

The bell-ringing name-reciting, brief ceremony was almost too painful to bear. I have a couple of connections to this school, but don’t actually know any of the families who lost loved ones.  I am praying that this horrible event will wake up Americans and that we will address the failings of our mental health system, as well as finally doing something to create needed restrictions on weapons.

I pray for these changes and, as a US citizen, I have made my opinions known about the glaring deficits in our society, and will continue to do so.  However, I don’t feel too optimistic about meaningful changes in these areas being made any time soon.  I hope I am wrong!blueimages

The faces of the victims and of their grieving families are still so fresh in our minds, but when something like this hasn’t had a direct impact on our own lives, it becomes more convenient, if not easy, to push aside the pain and unpleasantness after a time. People here also tend to want to believe that there is some sort of a predictable timetable for grieving and for healing. I know this, personally, because I am a survivor of a few tragedies in my own life.  They were different sorts of tragedies but many people quickly forgot about us, or needed to distance from us so they didn’t have to be reminded of unpleasant events and sadness on their own days of happiness and celebration. Quite a few thought I should have been “pretty well over things” and that my kids and I should have moved on with our lives by the six- month mark after my first husband had died and our home and belongings were destroyed in a fire. They actually said that to me.

When my young nephew lost his father, my brother, people told him he was “lucky to have had his father for eleven years”.  When my sister’s not-quite twenty-four year old son died suddenly and most suspected it had to do with drug use, the majority of people in her life were painfully silent and quickly pretended that all was back to normal by avoiding any discussion of her loss.  This silence was extended by most to her surviving young teenaged son, who needed to talk about his feelings and about his brother to people he knew, but few wanted to listen.

Our hearts are all hurting when we think about the lives lost just a week ago, but I ask you to please not forget about the survivors. The Town of Newtown has requested that the public stop sending teddy bears and other stuffed animals. Various memorial funds and scholarships have been set up to create legacies in the names of the victims.  I get that sending stuffed animals makes some folks feel a little better themselves, for a couple of brief moments.

Please remember, though, that the pain of the families who have lost loved ones will not be brief. While numerous professionals have come forward and offered services to help them, which is great, and some claim to have magic methods to make grief go away in 30 minutes or 30 days, grief is part of the human condition. If we mask it by shoving it down, or latch onto quick fixes, it will only come roaring up again in ways that we can’t predict, at times we can’t predict, and will, in the long run, cause more pain and suffering, for us and for those close to us.  There are some proven tools  that do help.   I have experienced loss and grief intensely.  I help others learn to transform their suffering into survival, and finally, into something that feels softer and sweeter and allows them to live a worthwhile life.   I know, though, that the grief doesn’t entirely leave and it shapes who we are and who we become in the future.

Please find honest and meaningful ways to reach out to the survivors, if you can, and to remember that their lives have been forever changed and will not go back to the old normal.  You may not know them and you may not have time or money to donate to the various funds that have been established. That’s ok, in my opinion, as long as you “pay it forward” by extending your help and compassion to others you encounter who are grieving and hurting,  and as long as you don’t grow complacent again and allow yourself to believe that this kind of thing can’t and won’t happen in your quiet little town or on your street in your city.

13 thoughts on “First Day Back to Sandy Hook Elementary and Grieving

  1. Pingback: Some HELP for the Grieving « ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. My heart goes out to these children and families. Just recently losing
    my mother, I think I can feel the loss these parents feel. People think I’m ok but I’m not. Things will never b the same. Thank you for bringing this topic up. Now I try to do a good deed for someone ….pay it forward!’

    • Diane, our own losses are often brought to the surface when we learn of other people’s losses. Yours was so recent. I know you will find many ways to honor your mother and her life and I am here if you need me!

  3. Great blog, Iris. What you write is so true, as I also have experienced personally. It is also good for me to be reminded as I prepare to help my brother embark on his grieving process. Hospice is now coming to the house as the hospitals have said there is nothing more that they can do for Joe.

  4. You have stated this well. People mean well when they try to console. They want to say something but sometimes it does not come convey in the right way . What do you say in a tragic situation such as this ?it is easier to go on with our lives if not directly impacted . I think that the Sandy Hook shooting will stay with most of us. I hope for the changes as you do . They say that good always surfaces from bad . Lets hope for some positive changes resulting from this horror.

  5. Can’t agree more Iris. There’s tremendous relief in having social support in rough times. That’s why the tradition of offering condolences was invented. Still, support in that form needs to stretch a bit more. Grieving takes time, but almost everybody has a life to continue running. And that is why professional support is valuable. At least, we reciprocate those professionals for giving us their time & lending us the listening ear we need.

    one of my wishes for the coming new year is to be less of a witness to the world’s atrocities ….

    Wishing you all the best to you & your loved ones too Iris :)

  6. I have a friend from college who is (was) the pediatrician of quite a few Newtown kids. Which somehow brings it a bit closer to home for me.

    But of course it will take time to “recover” from the trauma, for everyone involved. To expect less is unreasonable. I hope the country really does learn from this.

  7. Iris, your words are so true.I can’t think of those lost lives…mostly just very young children,without crying & yes there are far to many cold hearts out there..one said to me: think of them as little angels ?
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts & your life.
    Jimmy

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