The massacre in Connecticut is merely the latest in a rush of violent tragedies that makes it very difficult not to go numb. Grieving is a natural process that realigns us after loss, but if we experience too many loses it becomes impossible to process them all. Those who live amid constant trauma must learn a skill for being both compassionate and aware. It is not easy. Here are 5 suggestions to begin the conversation:
Do not re-traumatize yourself by dwelling on news coverage.
After a tragedy has happened we can obsess on the details as if there were some way to go back and undo the damage. Instead what we may be doing is reopening the wound. There is a period where such obsession may be helpful, but at some point it can leave us numb.
Avoid discussions of easy answers.
There will be a time to talk about issues like gun control, but that is best done after we have returned to balance. If we argue out of our pain we may unnecessarily delay that return.
Instead of groping for answers, light a candle
There a moments in life that fit no human context. They remind us that life does not always seem to be aware of our human purposes. It can feel comforting to make up theories about why God or Karma would do such a thing, but then we are left living in a strange melodrama that actually makes it harder to heal our wounds, which are always in the real world.
By meditating, praying or lighting a candle, we take a moment to trust the life process. Life is not always kind, but it is always our home.
Instead of reading only news, read wisdom more lasting.
While it is important to stay informed, it is also important to take a longer term view of life, which newspapers seldom do. Remember the poets and philosophers who have fed your soul and keep them near in times of grief and turmoil.
Find something you love and make that your starting place for changing the world.
When we have lost perspective it is easy to mechanically push for our causes instead pursuing the true purpose of ethics which is restoring communion. Most violence is reactionary. True revolution can only come from compassionat revolutionaries. So when we see a world of heroes and villains, it is always the sign of a wounded heart. Retreat for a moment to someone (human or animal) you care about until you remember your compassion. Then deepen and broaden that love until you feel not only your duty to all humankind but also your compassion for it as well.
We are still making our way through this. Our issue is not that our hearts are closed but that they are open wounds. Our son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren – Will and Faith, ages 10 and 7 live in Newtown. The kids are unhurt; but the trauma in their lives and community is deep. Will’s best friend’s little brother is among the dead and Will has had periods of being inconsolable. We have spent so much time in Newtown, a community we love, and still can’t get our heads around turning on the tv and hearing “Newtown” and “tragedy” in the same sentence. And, as a human being and a clergy person, I would give anything not to hear another pastor in a television interview talk about “God’s reason” for this or “God’s mysterious purpose” or any of that kind of hideous, ridiculous lunacy.
Thank you for sharing this. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of those of you who actually know some of the children. It is hard enough for the people watching helplessly from a distance. I’ve heard so many people wishing they could reach out and comfort the people of Newtown. I will grieve for you and for Will.
In today’s atmosphere of fast news, information assaults us from every direction. A hundred years ago, events didn’t come to the consciousness of citizens for weeks and possibly even months. Today we hear about it five minutes later. In some instances we can watch as events unfold on television, on our computers or on our ipads. I fear that all this information overload may result in a sense of dis associative numbness, deadening us to the horrors being perpetrated around the world.
I think the answer is to meditate, pray, and go back to that time honored recreating called reading. We are biologically and neurologically equipped to handle these activities.
I can’t even begin to imagine the horror of losing your child to such a horrific act. Yesterday while driving to work, I saw two flags at half mast. It broke my heart. Someone brought up another point of intense sadness. Many of those parents, probably have bought their child’s Christmas gifts. These will be painful reminders of a Christmas never to be for them.