When tragedy strikes in a community, everyone is affected, as in the recent shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. What can we do to in the aftermath of great sadness for ourselves and the community? Celia Baker discusses this very topic in her article, “When tragedy strikes children, what can be done to help survivors?” posted in Deseret News on December 15, 2012.
Memories from the Columbine High School shooting come back to the minds of those who lived through this terror. Students remember the fear, the panic and uncertainty of whether they would make it out alive with all of their friends and teachers unharmed. The aftermath of these atrocious acts of violence leave many children and even adults with night terrors and bouts of weeping, according to Celia Baker’s article. Here are some suggestions for survivors of tragedy from the “When Tragedy Strikes Children” article by Celia Baker.
Talk To Children:
Expressing ourselves through talking and sometimes even art can help ease the minds of those involved. Liz Carlston who was a 17-year-old student at Columbine High School in April of 1999 tells of feeling like a “shaken soda bottle.” “You have to talk and share what’s inside you. You’ve got all this carbonation, and if you don’t let that pressure off — by talking, talking, talking….you can explode.”
From David Fassler for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “There is no right or wrong way to talk to children about school shootings and other community tragedies. Parents should be honest with their children yet keep comments appropriate to age and developmental level.”
He goes on to write: “Remember that children are likely to personalize situations and worry about their own safety, so limit television viewing of frightening images and violent news especially if a child becomes overly fearful about safety.”
Talk time with children is so very helpful after tragedies. Parents should take the time to talk to their children and others involved and let them express themselves to help the healing process.
Sorrowful Lessons Learned:
The next tip reminds us to learn from the tragic events through true news reports and not hearsay. From the first shot fired at the Columbine High School massacre, news stations and newspapers released conflicting reports of what was really happening, according to Baker’s article. When a crisis occurs, a call goes out to a crisis team to help families and co-workers cope with tragic situations.
“Conflicting reports, the descent of the national media and communication problems between various law enforcement groups added to the aura of fear and chaos. Counselors worked to calm terrified students and to help families whose children were still in the school. As the school siege lengthened, counselors offered each family the services of a victim advocate who would stay with them in their homes that night as they awaited word about their children’s fates,” according to the article.
Watching the news day in and out can cause unrest and darkness in the home, so limiting viewing news time is very important. It’s just not worth the time to become so obsessed with a news item that repeats the scene of terror over and over again. Waiting a few days when the story calms down to just the facts is helpful in dealing with the tragedy so parents can talk to their children to find out their needs in the healing process.
Find support and healing:
Another important tip is to find a support group or someone who can help family members deal with what has happened. Grief therapists and special centers can guide parents and others to help deal with the reality of the situation and start the healing process.
From the Bradley Center for Grieving Children and Families in Salt Lake City, Carrie Moore, co-founder, says “Grieving children are very different than adults, especially younger children, who don’t have words to express what they are feeling inside. Bereaved children don’t believe adults can understand what they are going though and can be reluctant to talk. Directed play and creative activities help, as does support from families in similar circumstances.”
There is no timeline for the grieving process and we shouldn’t expect anyone to “get over” what has happened through any tragic event. Life will come as waves of normality and sadness until a certain kind of recovery is accomplished years down the road. It’s a progress and most victims don’t recover as they were before the incident but just learn to cope.
Everyone will face or has faced a tragedy in their lifetime and Celia Baker’s article, “When tragedy strikes children, what can be done to help survivors?” can help many begin the healing process.
This article was written by Valerie Steimle, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Despite being born and raised a Yankee, Valerie Steimle moved to southern Alabama with her husband and nine children and have found herself partial to the south. She has always been passionate about strengthening families and despite being busy with her own, felt compelled to write about it. Starting with a column in the local newspaper, she has since published several books regarding family issues. During that time her husband passed away suddenly and she was left to raise her five youngest children alone. She has moved forward with faith however, and has found happiness in her God, her family and her writing.