Thoughts About a Massacre

We can point fingers in the aftermath of Sandy Hook.  It is the guns, the NRA, the politicians, the violent video games, the Asperger’s or school security.  Bottom line it is a human problem!  As a society we have moved away from thinking, feeling and being in connection.  Yes there is sadness, anger, pain, disappointment, frustration, hurt etc. etc. in the world.  It seems as though we are in a moment in history where we medicate with drugs, work, money, electronic devices, alcohol, food and more. It is time to STOP and reconnect with the human experience.  We seem to have lost the notions of compassion and acceptance.  Yes, as a society the national debate engages questions about difference: gay marriage, race and prejudice.   While these are important, there are other types of injuries that happen on the schoolyard, between people and within ourselves when we don’t meet our expectations, get laid off or are suffering from depression, alcoholism, eating disorders or anxiety behind closed doors.  These are the issues that we have lost touch with.

As parents and human beings, it is time to reexamine our relationship with uncomfortable feelings.  Can we bear them in our selves?  Can we bear them in our loved ones, spouse and children?  If we as parents have difficulty with this, then how can we help our children?  In the past, whether it was church, working shoulder to shoulder on the farm, extended families, closer knit communities, less aggression in the media (TV, video games) or less access to military type weapons there were no massacres like Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech or shootings in the public square like Gabrielle Giffords’s in Tucson or in our gathering places such as a movie theater in Aurora. In this day and age with work, computers and general business there is more anonymity, aloneness, isolation.  There are more hours spent on Call of Duty, Counter Strike, Halo or other violent first person shooter video games and guns available that have magazines that shoot endless bullets.  Yes, with the fiscal cliff, economic hardship and the struggle to make ends meet, the stresses are even higher.  It is therefore essential at this time to move from isolation, silence and secrecy when in distress.  Our path forward is more connection, not less, deepening, not avoiding and moving toward compassion and acceptance.

There have always been painful/uncomfortable feelings.  This massacre of innocent elementary school children is a call to action.  Let’s not get caught up in political rhetoric.  Instead, let’s take the time to look at our community, our children our home lives and ourselves.  Do we talk with our children about painful feelings? How do we act, treat others and respond to pain, distress and sadness?  Do we avoid or point fingers and say the problem is with others?  If so, what is it that is making us so uncomfortable?  It is time to look inside ourselves to learn how to reach out for help and support and in turn, reach out and support someone else in pain.  Painful feelings are part of being alive but left in the dark they can be destructive.  If you are scared, anxious, sad or lonely, it is time to reach out to family, friends, religious institutions or other supportive groups to build community again.  If your children are scared, anxious, sad or lonely, reach out to them or help them find resources in the community who can be with them.  Some answers may come from Washington or government, but the power to make change now is in our community and our ourselves. We all have feelings and we all have to learn about them.  It is time to come together, be present, and have space for the full range of emotions that are the human experience.

Resources to Help in the Aftermath of School Shootings

About the Author

Debra Kessler, Psy.D. Debra Kessler, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the care of children and their families. Dr. Kessler was awarded her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Vanderbilt University. While working as an RN in Pediatric Intensive Care, she pursued a Masters Degree in Pediatrics from UCLA to further her skills in caring for children. After a career in nursing that included bedside nursing, Kessler chose to focus her attention on addressing the emotional needs of children and their families by obtaining a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at California School of Professional Psychology. Her post-doctorate work was done with Child Development Institute treating autistic and developmentally challenged preschool and young children and at Reiss-Davis Child Study center addressing the needs of school children, adolescents and their families. She has contributed to Infant/Child Mental Health, Early Intervention, and Relationship-Based Therapies: A Neurorelational Framework for Interdisciplinary Practice (Lillas &Turnbull 2009). Dr. Kessler has an active practice in Montrose, California. In a family centered manner, she treats a range of developmental and emotional issues including adoption/attachment difficulties, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, autism/Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, learning challenges, regulatory difficulties and other issues that interfere with children reaching their potential.

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