As we grieve with our neighbors over the deaths of 20 children and 7 adults, we may be angry, fearful, and feel as if the darkness has overcome the light. We have so many questions and too few answers. The events of Friday are so close, we are in the midst of an uncomfortable grief, feeling shell shocked by what has taken place just 9 miles from Monroe.
Let us pause & remember: These children were our children. These families are our families. There are no words to explain the littlest angels ripped from their families, there is only deep sadness that we share with neighbors who have had the unthinkable happen to them, and a deep, deep gratitude for our own families.
So what do we say, what do we do?
“Only a parent who has lost a child can truly understand the devastating and life-changing effect this has on the families involved,“ says Patricia Loder, Executive Director of The Compassionate Friends (TCF), the nation’s largest non-profit self-help support organization for bereaved families after the death of a child.
“It is said that for a parent, when a child dies, the future dies, too,” adds Mrs. Loder, herself a twice bereaved parent, as well as a bereaved sibling. “When this is multiplied by the grief of 20 families that lost young children, as in the Newtown tragedy, it is especially important that the community join together in any way possible to help the families that have been shattered. It’s important to remember that some of the adults who were killed also have parents and siblings who are grieving.”
According to Mrs. Loder, there are some universal pointers bereaved parents and siblings agree friends may want to keep in mind when trying to help the grieving families.
• Don’t try to find magic words that will take away the pain. There aren’t any. A hug, a touch, and the simple words “I’m sorry” can offer the most comfort.
• Don’t be afraid to cry. Those tears are a healthy release both for both you and the family, and a tribute to the child who died.
• Listen to what the parents and siblings have to say. Let them express their anger, their questions, the pain, and the disbelief they may be experiencing. Don’t discourage them from talking about their feelings. Remember that siblings are often considered the “forgotten mourners” and need to have their grief validated, too.
• Be there. Don’t say “call me if there is anything I can do.” That call will probably never come. Think of what the family needs to have done and offer to do specific tasks.
• As time passes, remember the child by sending a card to the family or calling on special days. A bereaved parent’s worst fear is that their child will be forgotten.
One of the most important points friends should remember, adds Mrs. Loder, is that there is no set timetable for grieving. “Some people believe healing starts the moment the family arrives home from the funeral. Bereaved parents and siblings are transformed into different people who will never be the same as they were. Grief doesn’t end in a week or a year, and it may never end. But the pain does get softer in time with the help of friends who care.” (From Compassionate Friends)
There are 10 Connecticut chapters with the nearest in Danbury, Waterbury, and Bridgeport.
And in the midst of this, we must not forget to help ourselves and our children work through this grief:
In response to Friday's tragedy in Newtown, 2-1-1 Child Care has created a list of resources to support caregivers. These resources can be found on the 2-1-1 Child Care website, www.211childcare.org and include valuable information on how to help children and caregivers heal in the aftermath of a trauma.
Dial 2-1-1, Connecticut's statewide, toll-free, 24 hour information and referral service or click here for additional mental health, emergency preparedness and grief counseling resources.
Lastly, this was sent by a colleague and may be helpful for all of us:
There is an invitation being circulated to light a candle on Christmas Eve in your driveway or outside your house for the families in Sandy Hook (Newtown, CT) and let it burn all night. I am inviting you in hopes you will want to participate and also send this invitation to others you know. Hopefully these brightly burning candles will alleviate some of the pain we are all feeling about this tragic event. There are just no words to express how badly we all feel for these families and how helpless we feel to help them. Collectively we can send our love and prayers to them with this symbolic gesture.
As we all move through the stages of grief, let us be gentle with ourselevs, but let us also be resolved to work towards ways we can help tragedies like this to never happen again in our towns & country.