Tagged: grief

Elegy ~ Sandy Hook Elementary School ~ December 14, 2012

In memory of those who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT, on Friday, December 14, 2012.

It’s humbling to try to write anything as a response to an event like the Connecticut school shooting. It’s a reminder of just how inadequate words can be.

After something horrific happens, whatever we feel is our truth. All feelings are a certain kind of very fleeting truth. Since Friday, I have felt deeply sad, a sort of a grief though I didn’t know any of the dead. I’ve also felt fear, anger, and again, sadness.

Fear is an emotion designed to helps us avoid future pain. It leads us to close down, to escape, to batten for another blow. Some people will feel fear and want to stay home, stay in, stay away. Others will feel fear and want to buy a weapon. Still others will want to ban future weapons sales, or even confiscate the weapons that are already owned. Fear makes us want to control.

Anger is an emotion that compels us to act, to protect and to defend ourselves. Some people will feel angry and lash out at the shooter, the community, the NRA, the lack of mental health care in this country, the government, the President. Those feeling angry will want to do something with their anger. Angry people arm themselves, protest and threaten, or blame. Angry people sign internet petitions and write their Congressperson or Senator.

Grief means that something sacred and dear has been lost. We will grieve and our grief will be overwhelming. We will feel helpless, hopeless. We will want to do something to prevent ourselves and others from future grief. We will want to give up. Those who are grieving will not be able to think clearly or concentrate until their grief has dulled. For their grief will never pass, but only dull. The grieving need our support and our love. They don’t need our fear or our anger.


After something horrific happens, whatever we do is our choice. In our choices we reveal, or obscure, our humanity.

I agree with Liza Long, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” who wrote that more than anything else, we need a conversation. A conversation with those who become so angry or so scared that the only thing that makes sense to them is destroying life, their own or others’. A conversation with those who are caring for the scared and angry. We need a conversation with those who own guns out of fear and those who train their children to use them out of fear.

After all this carnage, it might help to talk to one another using kind words. It might help to acknowledge that some people only feel safe if they own a gun. Then we must decide together how to make sure that everyone actually is safe.

It might help to look at the data, to learn about the places in the world that are most safe and those that are the least safe. To see how many weapons exist in each of those places and how the laws in the safe places deal with weapons and how the humans in those safe places deal with each other.

Fear, anger, and grief don’t lend themselves to conversation. But I have to believe that we can learn to acknowledge our emotions and then make humane choices. We can choose to talk, and choose not to fight, because we are human beings.

We can look at the facts and the deaths. We can accept each other’s deep emotions and say: I understand. Like you, I also feel pain and anger, grief and fear. Like you, I have felt lost and I have felt loss.

Like you, I want this to change. I hope for this to change.


Hope means that we trust in a promise, or at least, that we would like to trust. We feel hope when a way opens that seemed closed and when either the rock or the hard place gives way. We feel hope when the angry and fearful voices, the voices that are inside all of us, are heard, acknowledged, and so can finally be quiet.

We feel hope when our fears are no longer ignored.

I’m reminded of the words of non-fiction authors Pam Cope and Aimee Molloy in their story of a journey after grief. They wrote of little children, the voices of our children, the voices of all of us:

Now that you’ve seen my suffering, now that you know about me, what will you do?






What I’ve Been Reading Lately – Sept 2012

Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup

This book by a widowed mother of four who becomes a chaplain for search and rescue missions is a soothing read even if you can’t exactly relate. Her voice is sincere, thoughtful, and humane. The scene that touched me most was when she counseled a man whose sister had committed suicide by taking barbiturates and walking into the cold woods. The dead woman’s minister had told her that all suicides go to hell. When her brother expressed distress about this, Chaplain Kate responded, “The game wardens have been walking in the rain all day in the freezing rain to find your sister. They would have walked for the rest of the week. And if there is one thing I am sure of, it is that God is not less kind, less committed, or less merciful than a Maine game warden.” She went on to assure him that his sister is safe, forgiven and “free at last from all her pain.” (p. 112).

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

People keep giving me Anne Fadiman books as gifts, so I must be making it clear that I like to read well-researched writing that still manages to be personal and creative. About the joys and quirks of being a book-lover, there are lots of obscure yet entertaining tidbits in here. I most enjoyed the essay about carnal versus courtly lovers of books, who are distinguished most starkly by whether or not one would ever lay a book face down on its spine. I also learned some new sesquipedalians that made me realize my goals are to have a diapason, adapertile jars, and a team of agathodemons looking out for me.

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The title of this book, first published in 1949, is meant not to denigrate but to honestly represent how women were viewed at the time: as an imperfect version of the prototypical human specimen, the male. In her introduction, she asks “Are there women, really?” And certainly, decades of health and psychology research that included only male (and white, Anglo-Saxon, educated, i.e., WEIRD) subjects, would seem to indicate that for many scholars in the early 20th century, the answer was a bizarre “no.”

Side note: In Ex Libris (see above), Anne Fadiman points out in her chapter on “True Womanhood,” noting that “…although my father and E. B. White were not misogynists, they didn’t really see women, and their language reflected and reinforced that blind spot.” (p. 76).

I’m through the chapter on biology and found it a helpful reminder of the physical and physiological limitations of female-hood. S. d B.’s prose reminds me that while women’s moods and anxieties help define our daily experience as more variable than a man’s, this does not define us, our humanity, or our possibilities. Rather, I’m striving, as I read this book, and as I grow into myself (to quote a dear friend), to accept the ups and downs of my emotional brain, and to use these experience to become more compassionate and present with myself and with others.