After the release of the Sandy Hook report, I asked to write an article about it. Then I sat down to write it and realized it was probably one of my worse ideas. It’s been almost a year and I am still trying to process what happened. How can I write about it if I still struggle to wrap my head around it?
The report didn’t say a lot that surprised me. I hadn’t known all the specifics, but for the most part, it was the same general information I already knew with a lot of horrifying details I never needed to know, yet couldn’t stop myself from reading. Still, as I read the report, I realized how much time had passed, how life had changed, and how I had changed. I didn’t notice that things got better. Last year, I had to reschedule a final I had on December 17 because I couldn’t fathom getting out of bed to show up to the exam, and hadn’t been able to study the three days prior.
Now, I can get up in the morning without feeling the weight of the world on my chest. My day-to-day life has returned to “normal.” Still, I don’t often talk about it and get very emotional when I do. It’s never going to be okay, but it’s become a part of the world I live in.
“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.” – Cheryl Strayed
As the anniversary approaches, please keep a couple things in mind. First, put aside politics. Understand that this is one of the most difficult – if not the most difficult – pains that the family and friends of victims and people of Newtown will ever have to endure. The tragedy was made worse by commentators accusing Newtown parents of using the shootings as an excuse to put gun control on the agenda.
For example, radio host Bob Davis declared, “And I have something I want to say to the victims of Newtown, or any other shooting…Just because a bad thing happened to you doesn’t mean that you get to put a king in charge of my life. I’m sorry that you suffered a tragedy, but you know what? Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty, which is a greater tragedy than your loss.”
Dealing with it is a lot harder than Davis seems to understand, and the way he compares losses shows his ignorance. If healing were easy, the world would be a much more peaceful and harmonious place. But it’s not.
“Forgiveness doesn’t sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up a hill.” – Cheryl Strayed
Second, understand that there is nothing anyone can do to speed up the process. Recovery occurs on an individual level, at an individual pace. There is no timeline for learning how to live without a loved one. While the plethora of self-help books and psychology research may offer suggestions to trauma recovery, the only way to get through it is to get through it. As December 14 approaches, please give the people of Newtown space. Do not expect them to be “over it” or blame them for the ways they choose to cope.
“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it.” – Cheryl Strayed
Going forward, all we can do is try to learn and prevent future tragedies. If the only thing that could make it okay is to go back in time and prevent the shootings from happening, then the next best option is to do everything in our power to try to stop this tragedy from touching others’ lives. This is not a politically charged statement. Regardless of your or my opinion on gun control, we can reach out before a problem escalates into violence. Simple awareness and kindness toward one another may help someone from slipping through the cracks.
David Foster Wallace said, “You can be shaped, or you can be broken. There is not much in between.” Let us allow ourselves to be shaped.