Around the world as people we are copying with the unspeakable tragedy of the Connecticut school shootings. This senseless act of violence has left us mourning at a time when we should be celebrating new life. Let us each take time to reflect and to renew. May we each work to make ourselves a little better and love one another more.

Coping with unspeakable tragedy

It’s unfathomable that anyone could kill 20 small children and six adults. It’s unfathomable that in the United States of America there is an average of 87 gun deaths per day. It’s unfathomable that as of August 1, 2012, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reports that there are 5,459,240 new firearms manufactured in the United States, nearly all (95 percent) for the U.S. market. An additional 3,252,404 firearms were imported to the United States.

It’s hard to feel good about celebrating Christmas when 26 families are dealing with unspeakable grief. There is no way to wrap one’s mind around such horrifying tragedy. No amount of information or gathering of evidence on what happened to the young man who killed his mother and then killed 26 people in an elementary school will ever make sense. There is no sense that can be made about such a tragedy. There just are no satisfying answers and there never will be.

Even when we are not directly involved we are emotionally impacted. When tragedies occur we are reminded of our own vulnerability. We are reminded that we could be in danger at any time and that we and our loved ones can be vulnerable in everyday situations. Coping with unspeakable tragedy is a process that occurs over time. It is not a process that can be ignored nor should one attempt to deny it with food, alcohol or other addictive behaviors.

Here are some coping techniques to help you move beyond tragedy:

  • Pray. We are spiritual beings. Use your spiritual tradition to help find comfort and hope.
  • Meditate. Be still and listen. Allow yourself the quiet time to be mindful and to explore your thoughts and emotions.
  • Use self hypnosis. Give yourself suggestions about feeling safe, serene and at peace. With hypnosis you can quiet your mind and calm your emotions.
  • Talk about your thoughts and feelings. Sharing your own thoughts and emotions help you process what’s going on inside. Even when there are no solutions the act of articulating thoughts and emotions makes it easier to move beyond these feelings.
  • Get out of yourself. Buy a Christmas gift for someone in need or do something kind for a stranger, friend or family member.
  • Turn off the news. With 24 hour news cycles it is easy to become overwhelmed with horrific details. Turn off the TV and go be with your family and friends.
  • Give good care to yourself. Be more active. It is important to burn off the stress caused by tragedy. Eat cleanly focusing on real food. Avoid fast food, processed foods and other foods that are filled with fat, salt and sugar. Minimize or avoid alcohol. Drink lots of water keeping your body hydrated.
  • Seek help. Talk to a therapist or find a support group that can help you explore your feelings. If you become preoccupied with feelings of anxiety, have invasive thoughts about the tragedy, experience nightmares related to the event, or find that your reactions to a traumatic event are interfering with your normal functioning, seek professional help.

There just is no sense that can be made from this tragedy. As our own lives continue on we each must continue to live our life to the fullest even when we don’t feel like it.

Coping with unspeakable tragedy,
originally posted in the Examiner

May we each find peace within our own heart.

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