Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Processing Tragedy

Over the past week I have been keenly aware of how we all process trauma, each in our own way.  I have been inspired by photos and news stories, outraged and dumbstruck by others.  Through all of it, I continue - like all of us - to grieve the losses in Newtown.

Some of my friends have written beautiful posts, like my friend Anna who wrote about silencing the arguments: The Silent Isle.  Others have written about not having words (me included), but gathering enough words to send to the families at Sandy Hook Elementary: Shabbir's Diary.  Kate at Nested has reminded us of heroes.  One of my new favorite blogs, Rage Against the Minivan, has expressed anger and has called for action (she has several excellent posts, one in particular about mental health). I've received phone calls and texts from friends, fellow moms, who just want to send love to all of their friends and family. My poor husband has been rendered speechless, tearing up at a vigil on campus as he introduced a colleague.  And my dear friend First Laura has focused her energy on making her immediate surroundings more beautiful and festive for the holidays, baking a kitchenful of treats for co-workers and decorating her office hallway to spread cheer in the face of suffering.

This is what I've done: research.

I told my husband the other night that when tragedy strikes, historically I have exhaustively researched the situation.  In doing so I am not trying to distance my emotions from the people involved.  Quite the opposite.  I want to know as much as I possibly can so that I can honor each person who died.  This is why I have channel surfed (on my computer because we don't have cable) relentlessly.  This is why I forced myself to look at every child's photograph, listen to every name read on NPR, why I have posted every well-written op ed and news story that I feel sheds light on the facts of the events.  (I say well-written because man have I read some awful, speculative pieces over the past week.  One on that frankly pissed me the hell off for all of its speculation about the killer's mother.  How can they publish something that is pure imagination? Or other articles about how Adam Lanza was vegan.  Who the f*$# cares?!)

At heart, I am an eternal student who requires facts to find answers.  I am not looking for meaning in the face of tragedy, because I don't believe there is meaning.  It was senseless and horrific.  I am not looking for hope (although I do appreciate all of the posts that have given that to me, especially the news about the 6 golden retrievers sent from Chicago to bring comfort to the Newtown community).
I am not a person of faith, so I am not looking for comfort in prayer.  I am not looking for comfort period.  I don't want to be comfortable.  I want to look into the face of pain and feel it too.  It is real and I need to acknowledge it so that I never forget what it looks like, how it feels.  As a cultural Jew, this is a lesson I learned a long time ago: never forget.  My approach is raw and it isn't right for everyone, certainly not my husband who can't listen to the news anymore.  I, however, need to know and need to cry.  I need to be active, so I have signed gun control petitions, have shared every post I consider worth reading (even if they contradict my own feelings - some politicians, namely the uber-crazy governor of Texas - want to arm teachers!).  We all approach this tragedy differently.  There really isn't a right way to grieve.



  1. I applaud your proactive approach. And you're right - we all grieve differently. I really admire your researching skills. I've been hunting down the eulogies as part of my own research - some really, unbelievably beautiful words are being written and spoken for and to these children and educators.

    Your statement about not wanting to be comfortable has made me think a lot. I, too, don't ever want to forget what pain like this feels like, just like I don't ever want to forget what happened. We as a country need to find a solution to problems like these, and settling back and getting comfortable again won't bring about any real change. Thanks for posting this, Amy.

  2. Excellent, Amy. Thank you. Like your husband I just can't bear to keep watching the news, listening to the eulogies--it's almost crippling to me. But I so appreciate you and others like you--that reach into the fray. Beautiful words.

  3. i too, think it is important to know the face of pain. i don't think people can recognize tragedy and grief through fear. i think the fear makes people reactive. i try to take a deep breath and hope that my sorrow leaves a mark.

  4. Thank you, friends, for your kind and thoughtful responses. Peace to you.

  5. I am the same way, read all I can. never turn a blind eye. Think about how this effects us more than the 16,000 children a day who die of hunger. I love the story about the dogs, I had't heard it in all of my wandering through posts and articles!

    1. It's good to know I'm not alone in my madness, Jodi. Thank you for responding.


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