In the first few moments of the morning of July 20, 2012, our collective hearts were broken by the tragic shootings in the Aurora movie theatre. Within a few minutes, lives were cut short, scores were wounded, and family members and friends in the hundreds and thousands were thrust into unexpected pain and trauma.
We ask how and why this could happen, and the answers simply are not there. As Governor Hickenlooper stated during his press conference, “There are no words.” Our community had no choice in being targeted by a very disturbed individual; however we can begin moving forward from this moment in a spirit of healing, of togetherness, and of love.
When tragedy enters our lives, we have a choice in how we respond to it, how we cope, and how we heal as individuals, families, and communities. Following are a few ideas for helping yourself and your loved ones begin to heal.
1. Talk. Share your feelings, your fears, your hurt, and your needs. Ask the questions that plague you whether there are obvious answers or not. Ask the unanswerable questions, simply because they are within you. They are within others as well and expressing them out loud creates a bond of shared emotion.
Children especially will have many questions about tragedies such as this recent shooting. Address the fear beneath their questions, validate that it is frightening, and focus them on all that you, and they, do to ensure they are safe every day. Allow them to talk as they need to about their fears, listen, validate, then listen some more. Remember too, that your words and actions are like blueprints to them, and if they observe you talking about your feelings and focusing on positive coping strategies, they will model that.
2. Love. Love yourself, love your family, love your friends and neighbors. Love your life, love laughter, relationships, and opportunities to learn. Honor these and other victims by allowing their deaths to teach you the precious, irreplaceable value of this very moment, and the next, and the next.
3. Open your life to opportunities to reach out to others. Volunteer, give blood, talk to a homeless person instead of looking the other way. Say hello and smile to someone who looks lonely and closed off. Help an elderly person with their bags. Carry yourself into your world each day looking for the chance to make even a small difference in someone’s life.
Yes, lives can be devastated by these acts of hatred and violence, but lives can also be changed and saved by kindness and love. It takes so little time and energy to reach out to someone, to help someone, to be kind, and yet every seemingly small act of love is healing and life changing. This tragedy ended lives, but it cannot end love. It cannot end the love these victims’ families and friends carry with them and the love they themselves inspired in their worlds.
Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of these victims and to our community as we grieve. Maria Droste Counseling Center is, as always, here to serve our community with compassionate counseling services.