Bad Dreams, Bad News, Bad People

I have written and erased, re-written and erased this post several times. I even made a video to go with it.  I decided to “go there” and then think against it. But this time I am going to keep writing in hopes that whoever might need to hear what I have to say will find it.  You see, I like to write about things that inspire….I like to stay out of politics and the ugly side of life.  But the fact is, something in me says I need to talk about this. So I am going to listen to that voice.

Just about anywhere you go this week, you will have had a conversation or heard the news about the massacre at Newtown, CT.  (This is where I get so stuck…..I bet you thought you might be able to come here to get away from that…a sanctuary, a place of reprise.)  Well, everywhere I go people are talking about it and I have started noticing that there is a trend in which people are starting to feel the trauma of the event in a very personal way.

Schools are going on lock down all over the country. Folks are extra vigilant; they are watching everything they can about the tragedy in hopes of making sense of this senseless act. And as a result, people are feeling traumatized.

This is what mental health professionals identify as secondary trauma.  A traumatic event happens to someone else and those around them, those that witness it, hear the story or who are somehow affected by the story begin to also experience the stress of the trauma.  As a helping professional in a family violence shelter for over 2 years, I saw who difficult secondary trauma could be.  It is hard to understand because we think, “This didn’t happen to me. Why should I feel the effects of it?”  But we do.

We might experience Secondary Trauma in these ways:

  • We lose sleep.
  • Our mind races with thoughts of the event or varying scenarios that play the trauma over in different ways.
  • We might have bad dreams.
  • We might find our actual reality mirroring some part of the event (like having our own child’s school put on lock down).
  • We might feel compelled to watch as much about the event as we can.
  • We might need to watch the news to assure ourselves that our security is intact.
  • Our body may be filled with anxiety and stress.
  • We may feel fearful, worried, unsafe, sad, and/or in shock.
  • The event may bring up our own unhealed traumas from the past.

What can help?

Here are a few things that might help bring you back to a feeling of peace and calm.

  • Make a space in your life to honor the loss. Light a candle, say a prayer, attend a vigil, write a poem, make a donation.
  • Set aside a time for connecting with a calm state of being.  (One way to do this might be to spend 15 minutes before bed listing 5 gratitudes and then focusing on your breathing.  You may find your mind wandering onto the event or a stressor, but just gently bring yourself back to the breath.)
  • Go on a media fast (no news) or limit your news intake.  This can be especially helpful in the evening to help keep your mind as calm and peaceful as possible before bed.
  • Try to balance judging your safety (and that of your children) with maintaining your peaceful state of being.
  • Connect with your love ones.
  • If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the tragedy and unable to comfort yourself, you may consider seeking the assistance of a helping professional, a counselor, clergy, or your doctor.
  • Know that you are not alone.

I would also like to share a resource for talking to your kiddos about death and violence.  Martha Atkins is a friend of mine and one of my secret mentors (wink).  She is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to grief, death and dying, and blending kids in with those subjects. She knows about life too, and how to live a good one!

Find her posts here:

Talking About Death to Kids 

Decoding Death Messages from Kids – Part One

More to come….check out the Martha Adkins blog.

You are a Resource!

Help grow the list of ways others might connect with peace during times of high stress like the one we are experiencing as a result of the tragedy in Newtown, CT.  Share with us YOUR ideas for what works, what is working, or what you are considering.




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  1. I did the same thing on my facebook site-wrote and erased; wrote and erased; As a parent, there was a time this was my worst nightmare especially when my sons started running into problem people at school who I was told ‘don’t know right from wrong; you’d better not just drop your kid off, but stay there until he’s inside the building;’ What??? My son is very bright,but was failing school. The environment was poison. I pulled him out and then removed my other son too and homeschooled them both. I don’t regret it. It certainly isn’t the answer for everyone but it was for me. When the school called to say my son had been jumped on by two ‘special needs’ students,and came home with a lump the size of an egg behind his ear, I removed him from that toxic environment. There’s no point for anyone to believe their children- or themselves-are safe anywhere.
    In this event in Conn.,not just those parents’ lives are ruined but two pairs of grandparents each are ruined. I’ve heard that when parents lose a child, they are so devastated that they will never be the same and as a parent I imagine that is true.No amount of prayer or well-wishes will bring back that light of someone’s life. You are right when you say turn off the tv. The vampire media only want ratings and sensationalism not realism. I’m surprised to see them actually ask ‘why’ instead of merely following the line of ‘well, let’s just get rid of all guns’ (which can be bought on any street corner USA from a total stranger). I’ve had someone try to break my door down in the middle of the night so I’ll stick with the right to own and bear a gun, thank you very much.
    Was the guy in Conn. mentally ill? That is the correct question. Why did he snap? This is what we should ask. In Tx, it is almost impossible to get help for a mentally ill person who is ‘of age’ until they actually commit a violent act or threaten to. Seen it firsthand. People who don’t work in the mental health field or law enforcement,or who don’t have a mentally ill family member, are clueless when it comes to dealing with such people.They won’t take their meds because ‘someone’s trying to poison them’. They won’t even admit there’s something wrong.At the height of a breakdown,they don’t recognize their own family or friends, possibly see the world in a weird out of focus neon-light view,believe the lies they tell,break their family financially and eventually in spirit.They end up on the street when family resources and the family members themselves are exhausted with coping and getting no help at all. That’s the true state of mental health care in this country. There’s no reason to sugarcoat it. Was the shooter in Conn mentally ill? We don’t know yet;chances are good he had some form of it and if his mother was indeed trying to get help for him she paid for her effort with her life. We need the facts out there. All this ‘we’ll make t-shirts; we’ll send well-wishes;blah blah blah are pointless if we don’t look at the WHY,stop ignoring those mentally ill people sleeping under cars or in dumpsters and look at our laws regarding people who at times don’t even know their own name or correctly see the environment around them;This is not a case of getting med treatment for a ruptured appendix,broken rib etc–this is something totally different and has to be looked at in that light.Yes,I know we’ve warehoused the mentally ill in the past and anyone at times could get someone they were mad at locked up. Certainly we wouldn’t want to go back to that-but we can’t afford to keep ignoring the problem.

  2. First, let me say I’m grateful for you “going there” and sharing what you know about how we can cope with an event like this. If folks like you don’t reach out and guide us, then it makes it that much harder to muddle through.

    Second, I’d like to point out an article I read this weekend about how the facts point to mass killings going down in frequency, the worst of which have been in other countries, and that it is more media exposure than fact that makes us believe it is more frequent. Here is that article: .

    Before we become afraid to go the grocery store, or the movies, or send our children to school remember that mass killings are far less common than getting struck by lightening and dramatically less common than dying in a car accident. The horror of the events, to those that it didn’t happen to, is much like watching a violent film. If you watch it enough, your body will believe it has happened to you. Turn off the tv. Send love where you can. And take action in your own community to create more safety, wellness and love. It is not up to the leaders of the country to always do everything. We can empower ourselves by coping in ways that Rachel suggested and in healthy ways that also help those around us. Talk to your school board. Talk to your city council. Go to a food bank and remember that others are struggling with survival in a different way. And return to love and the knowing that NO ONE has a guarentee on how long they will be here and that is precisely why we need to come from a place of love instead of a place of fear. There are no guarentees but this moment, and Rachel I’m grateful to you that you are showing us how to be in the moment outside of fear and engage what is going on in a healthier way!

    • Thank you Jessica and Galyn. I have been rather overwhelmed with the support I had for this post (both here and through FB and emails). I love the point that we get to choose take action and the reminders to do that with love for one another. Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

  3. Just today I was able to take some action to help myself heal and hopefully help others in Newtown by offering to make memory quilts from clothing for any family that might want one. It’s what I do, and it’s what I could best do to help others.

    That being said, what comes up for me today,too, is that we must not give our power away to that evil person. It’s exactly what he would have wanted Letting his act of terrorism take our energy, take our spirit away is also giving our power away to him. We all need to hold a clear, open place, a place of power and love, to enjoy our loved ones and ourselves during this holiday season while still not forgetting those who suffered terrible losses.

    • Amy, what a dear gift you have to give. I have been thinking of the families and how they will cherish your quilts. Beautiful!

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