What do you say when there are no words that seem to fully express your deep heartache? That’s where I’m at the day after the Covenant School shooting in Nashville that took the lives of three 9-year-old children and 3 adults, before the shooter was shot by police. I feel compelled to say something, and at the same time, helpless to attempt to bring any comfort to those walking through this tragedy. I’m a mental health professional with some experience in grief counseling and trauma therapy, AND I’m also a mother who sent her 8-year-old son off to school yesterday operating under the assumption that he would be safe- likely the same assumption that the parents of yesterday’s young victims had. It was unfathomable to them that their hug goodbye would be their last. 

So it is with humility that I attempt to offer some support to navigating this tragedy. If you lost a loved one yesterday or someone who positively impacted your life, I am deeply sorry for this devastating loss. I encourage you to give yourself the space and permission to feel and grieve. Reach out to those you trust for support and be willing to receive help. You might also consider seeking help from a therapist to help you to process this loss. We are here for you with availability. If you’re experiencing heightened fear and anxiety as a result of this, we can also support you with some tools, and can offer healing of trauma at a deeper level through EMDR and Brainspotting.

If you’re a parent, you may be wondering how or if to talk to your kids about this. I’ll admit that I’m fumbling my way through it because this didn’t come in the parent training manual or my grad school courses. I’m appreciative for insights from local experts, one of whom is Sissy Goff, an author and sought-after speaker who is the Director of Child and Adolescent Counseling at Daystar Ministries. Here are some tips that she shared on social media yesterday. Here is a link to her video post on Instagram that I highly recommend you check out here.   And here are the bullet points:

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Be the source.
  3. Let them lead. Their questions indicate what they can handle processing.
  4. Give them space to feel.
  5. It’s okay to feel with them, but not to process with them.
  6. Answer questions age-appropriately and honestly.
  7. Talk about what they can control.
  8. Look for the helpers. Be one.
  9. Ask what would help them to feel safe at school.
  10. Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers
  11. Remind them of the truth you know.

Here are some added suggestions from the American School Counseling Association:

  1. Try and keep routines as normal as possible. Kids gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.
  2. Limit exposure to television and the news.
  3. Be honest with kids and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle.
  4. Listen to kids’ fears and concerns.
  5. Reassure kids that the world is a good place to be, but that there are people who do bad things.
  6. Parents and adults need to first deal with and assess their own responses to crisis and stress. (This reiterates Sissy Goff’s point to feel with them but not process with them.)
  7. Rebuild and reaffirm attachments and relationships.

Finally, if you are a person of faith, draw near to God and seek His comfort and wisdom. Bring your hard questions and receive His grace. As you seek and pray, then discern how you are being moved to action to help reveal His mercy and love to a hurting world.

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