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The Vital, Overlooked Response to Tragedy

The Vital, Overlooked Response to Tragedy

What can I do? The question chased me Monday morning. What can I do when I wake up to hear that over 50 lives were lost, over 500 people were injured, and Las Vegas is grieving. I am grieving, too. What can we do? What will we do?

There are many practical things we can do to feel involved—give blood, attend a memorial, continue to gather supplies for those affected by the recent hurricanes. We can donate our time to relief efforts or call our politicians to talk about gun control.

All of those things are good and valid, but if we stop there I think we are missing something vital.

Mother Theresa, when asked what we could do to promote world peace, said, “go home and love your family.” I agree—peace starts at home. It is vital for us all to gather our families, those born to us and those chosen, and to talk about how we are dealing with these losses. To ask each other if we are all right and to really listen to the answer. To speak about our fear and pain, in order to take away its power.

Many Americans still have a stigma when it comes to counseling. We do not give our mental health even half as much regard as our physical health. It feels like we talk about something once and that ought to be good enough—“move on, get over it!” I am sure there will be counselors available at many schools and possibly even some workplaces over the next few days, especially in the Vegas region. But we can do better than that. Our work starts at home.

Over the coming weeks, months, years, please talk to your children about their feelings. I know many of us want to shield young people from the pain of adulthood as long as possible, but kids are smart. They watch and listen intently to everything we say and do. Ask your children what they know about what has happened. Help them to understand that a man with a gun made a terrible choice. They will ask you questions like, “Why did he do that?” and “Was he sick?” And you are going to have to do your best to be honest with them. We don’t know, we may never know, what was happening inside of this man’s head. But if he had talked honestly to even one person about his thoughts, maybe all of this could have been prevented.

In this same way, talk to your friends and coworkers about their pain. Talk to your children’s teachers and coaches and ask them to talk to your children as well. Counseling doesn’t have to be a place that you go once a week to sit in a room and talk—it can be you and your spouse or your sister or your buddy being honest with each other about how these nationwide tragedies have impacted you.

Teach young people that there is nothing wrong with asking for help, with asking for someone to listen, for needing to talk out their feelings. Go with them to see a counselor and go to their school and find out if students are encouraged to talk with adults about their feelings. Find out if your insurance covers mental health, and advocate for it if it isn’t covered. Offer to accompany friends and family if they are scared. Acknowledge your own feelings and needs. Work on your own peace.

We have suffered terrible loss as a nation. Mass shootings are something we deal with far too often. If we can reach out to each other, be accountable for each other, teach the next generation to to be honest about their thoughts and feelings, then maybe we won’t have to live in a world where violent deaths are normal.

This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on mental health from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.

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I am a theater professional living and working in Chicago. I enjoy painting, Nintendo, my boyfriend and our cat Tallulah.

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