Editor's note: I held Jenny's piece because it felt it needed some space before posting. I was going to post it this week, but here we are. Today is the 100th day of 2023. To date we have had 145 mass casualty shootings in the United States. We have a small group contributors I dubbed my "quick response" team to send pieces in relationship to current events. We literally cannot keep up with mass shootings, with the trauma daily inflicted on our children and our nation. Apathy and familiarity are dangerous in this moment. Those of us who identify as pro-life must see that the current state of our gun laws are an abomination. If you have thoughts on proactive ways to engage on this issue and would like to share those thoughts, resources or organizations, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. -J.Delvaux
[Jenny wrote this in the first 24 hours after the tragic death of six people in a Nashville school just days ago.]
When I saw the news that there had been yet another tragic school shooting, I felt my head shake and eyes roll followed by a heavy shoulder shrug.
Checking Instagram after dinner I didn’t even make it through my usual three scrolls and a couple swipes – almost every post was about the shooting and how “when?!” are we actually going to do something about it…
This morning it hit me – we are facing collective trauma. The numbness I reacted with is part of my learned response to freeze when facing something or someone that makes me feel helpless.
For me it was freeze. For you it might be a fight or flight response. Although part of me feels ashamed to remember what feels like a pretty apathetic response, a bigger part thinks we need to start changing the questions… and listen to more voices than the media and politicians because much of what we’ll hear won’t be that different than after the last shooting.
Like a math problem – we need to look closely at what variables can be changed so that the outcome is different. But I’m not talking about gun legislation or mental health solutions.
What comes to my mind is GRATITUDE and PERSPECTIVE. Both of those can lead to proactive choices – that might not prevent the next tragic news, but that can determine how we respond and live our lives every day.
I see you shaking your head and shrugging your shoulders – and your anger at my insensitivity is welcome. I know I could use more of a shaking up to rouse me from my freeze, but here me out for a few minutes…
One of my good friends had major hemorrhaging when her son was born – something that decades ago could’ve left her husband widowed with a newborn. My Dad was hospitalized with a nasty infection – something that without the antibiotics could have taken him from us. I had appendicitis during my second pregnancy – had it not been for my husband having a cell phone on him that Saturday morning I wouldn’t have gotten to the hospital in time and he might have lost both me and our baby.
We could all list out dozens of tragedies averted because of modern medicine, technology, how interconnected we are, and simple providence.
This doesn’t take away AT ALL that what happened yesterday was and is a tragedy – something that we should continue to seek real action to prevent. At the same time though I do think we need to remember how many tragedies our grandparents, great-grandparents and generations before lived through that we barely give a second thought to because of what’s available now at our fingertips.
We sponsor an African child who’s recently written to us about how some of the money his family receives through our support is helping to put an outhouse in. I don’t think any of us would argue not having indoor plumbing is a tragedy but the comforts and conveniences we are so used to are, even today, rarities for so many around the world.
I could go on but the point I am trying to share is that trauma and tragedy bring about all sorts of responses that we need to make space and time for – all the tears, anger, frustration are valid and help us process what’s happened. But in the good Catholic principle of both/and, alongside those emotions and thoughts let’s include action plans closest to home.
Do watch and read about what happened to let your reactions surface. Do call your elected representatives and support local organizations.
But also, please take some time in the coming weeks to:
List 3-4 potential tragedies in your own life that you haven’t had to suffer – express your gratitude for whatever helped avoid those. Journal or send a handwritten note to a doctor or family member.
Think of 1-2 people in your life who have gone through a tragic accident or loss – reach out to them and let them know that this most recent tragedy has reminded you that a loss is never gotten over and you want them to know they’re accompanied. Call that friend who’s still grieving and might feel like her pain’s been forgotten to everyone but her.
If you have kids, please, please use or learn a new tool to help them build resilience and skills to talk about their feelings, deal with their frustrations and know that they’re not alone in dealing with whatever feels tragic (no matter how trivial it may seem to us) to them.
If you see an area in your life that needs deeper healing or processing – commit to some concrete step in the next few months to grow personally.
I’ve coined a phrase for myself – “gratitude without grief leaves thankfulness incomplete.” When we pair grief with gratitude it can reassure us in the midst of the storm that the sun has not disappeared, that a new day will come and that although we can never fully recover from losses in life, we do believe in a God who is more powerful than all that.
Time doesn’t heal all things, but neither does legislation. Peace doesn’t come from not having problems but from pressing into and through providence with courage. And all of it comes together better when we’re surrounded by love, hope and mutual strength.