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No Easy Tips to Cope with the Sandy Hook Tragedy

Originally posted December 15, 2012.

There are no easy tips for coping with the tragedy of the loss the families in Sandy Hook, Connecticut are experiencing.

It is normal to feel a lot of strong emotions: grief, anger, helplessness, loss, guilt.

To feel strong emotion is to be normal.

The northeast United States hasn’t recovered from the massive destruction of Hurricane Sandy. And yet another event brings epic grief to our area and our country.

There are no easy fixes for all of these normal feelings, as there are many levels to this tragedy, both the personal and the societal.

Labeling and sorting through your feelings is a complex coping mechanism, not an easy fix.

Empathic levels: The intimate level of loss and the horrific thoughts and images of small children so tragically killed, are difficult to move away from consciousness. The empathic grief we all feel for the mothers and fathers and families of these children seems bottomless.

Yet, if you feel this empathy, it is normal.

Your feelings are normal.

Personal losses: Our own personal deep losses are triggered by the sadness we feel for others. It is normal for your own grief and frustrations to well up while feeling for others.

And yet, if your own losses are felt more keenly, this is normal.

Societal levels: Another level is the on-going gun laws debate. For those of us who wish for change in the gun laws, and believe the easy availability of guns makes these types of tragedies inevitable, there is the added layer of helplessness and anger at the NRA backed system. Read the statistics on guns & the US in ABC’s Bill Weir’s blog here. Read Lisa Belkin’s Huffington Post blog about gun control

And if you feel this helplessness and anger, it is normal.

Societal levels: Another area where many of us have on-going anxieties are about the explicit violence pushed on all of us in this culture via video games and pop culture. This month Ohio State University researchers published research showing that playing violent video games increased aggressive behaviors. The researchers compared playing violent video games to smoking cigarettes, where effects are cumulative over time. It is confusing as to how an individual can make changes to this; and it is difficult to keep sticking our heads in the sand.

And we can feel guilty over not acting.

It is normal to feel guilty and feel a partial responsibility for the climate of our violent culture.

Mental health care: The general feeling that mental health is an after-thought in our healthcare system. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Jersey does not pay mental health providers a living wage. Electricity, gasoline, everything increases, yet mental health providers saw a decrease in payouts in the fall of 2011. Read this article from the the mother of a mentally ill child.

Societal levels: Making a positive impact: Many of us think and feel we are part of a larger community, and we live and work to be the change in the world. Many of us aspire to live to leave a positive footprint. And when tragedy hits, we are overcome with despair about how evil man can be.

And yet, it is normal to feel the despair that our contribution is not enough to stem the tide of tragedy.

Strong feelings are normal.

And if you are feeling overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, responsibility, despair, your emotional and mental health is important.

  • Take a break from the pain. Go back to your regular activities. Seek community: Go to your place of worship to grieve with others

  • Seek local professional counseling

  • If you need immediate assistance, call a manned hotline



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