A Nation Grieves
On Friday, Dec. 14, the nation experienced another tragedy. In the words of several first responders, it was the worst tragedy that they had ever witnessed. Twenty year old Adam Lanza shot and killed six adults and 20 schoolchildren between the ages of five and 10.
As a nation, we grieve on several different levels. We grieve for the administrators, teachers and children that are supposed to come home at the end of each school day. We grieve with the families, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents who are now faced with the pain of their great loss. We grieve the unimaginable reality that this has happened. It makes no sense. There are so few answers to the many “why” questions.
Now it is time for us to mourn. Some of us will mourn with tears, some with talk, some with deep thought and some with action. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and mourn, but it is important that we do.
But what about our children? How do we help them? In both grief and trauma there are steps we can take.
Children need to know they are safe and that trustworthy people are in control. Our reactions and responses to traumatic events will affect how our children deal with those same events. It is okay for your children to see you saddened by an event, but it is important that they feel our sense of security and resolve to protect them.
Talk to the children, answer their questions. They may ask— or may be wondering—”Is that going to happen to me?” Or “Is that going to happen to Mommy or Daddy?” Children should be reassured with information about the steps that the adults in their lives are taking to keep them safe. Children may also have questions about death and dying. We need to answer their questions as truthfully as possible at a level they can understand.
Give children the amount of information that you believe they can understand. This often involves turning off news reports of the event and significantly controlling or limiting their exposure to threatening images on TV. In addition to monitoring media images, it may be wise to monitor our conversations about the event, as conversations, too, may be troubling for our children.
Help children express their feelings. We can help our children find a positive way to cope with what has happened, and to assist others in the healing process. Examples include sending a special picture to a helper (police, fire, rescue), sending a card or drawing with a message of encouragement to a community touched by the trauma.
Hospice of Lenawee provides compassionate, patient and family-centered care to the people of our community during and after the last season of life. Our bereavement services are available at no cost to any member of our community who has suffered a loss through the death of a loved one. These services are supported entirely by charitable donations.
Director of Bereavement Services
Hospice of Lenawee
Source: Adapted from The American Psychological Asso-ciation as part of the ACT Against Violence project.