Saturday marks the 1st anniversary of one of the most heinous and despicable acts of violence in our nation’s history. The senseless slaughter of 20 innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary School would have been beyond imagination had we not witnessed it with our own eyes. Few of us can begin to imagine what it has been like for the families of those who were murdered to endure the horrors and heartache of this unspeakable tragedy. Our hearts go out to them. And we pray for their healing. But the families in Newtown, Connecticut have requested something more. Something different. And something quite profound.
In anticipation of December 14th, the Sandy Hook families have asked for their privacy to be respected — and have asked those wishing to do something to honor their loved ones by reaching out to someone in need.
In the years since the death of my daughter, Jenna, I have learned a great deal about honoring. Honoring is a profound form of healing. And there are at least four ways of doing it.
The first honoring is our own survival. Fighting our way back into life after a traumatic loss can be a daunting process. Learning the in’s and out’s of survival and self-care, speaking to ourselves in the voice of patience, kindness, compassion and encouragement are essential. So is faith. Believing that we will somehow find the strength to go, to prevail over our sorrow, keeps us keepin’ on.
The second honoring is to do something good in their name. This can be as simple and elegant as lighting a candle — or as complicated and far-reaching as starting a non-profit like The Jenna Druck Center, MADD, or Susan G. Komen Foundation. The Sandy Hook families, like so many others, are requesting that we honor their loved ones by doing good in their names.
Doing something good may also involve social action. Celebrating what they did in life, what they stood for and/or the special qualities they possessed is one option. Speaking out about how they died (i.e. a drunken driver, suicide, gun violence, etc.) and doing something to make the world a better, safer place is another.
The third honoring is to write new chapters in our own book of life. The idea of going on with life when my daughter’s life had been cut short at age 21 was, at first, offensive. Over time and with healing, I’ve come to realize that I can make the rest of my life an expression of my love for her and her sister — or my despair over how she died. I choose to love. Like every parent who has suffered the loss of a child, I have bouts of sadness, yearning and outrage. But I wake up each morning and do things to bring meaning and purpose into my life – and the lives of others. I accept the fact that I’m living in a new normal and that the old one is gone. I’m grateful for the blessings and simple joys of my life, for the people I love and who love me and for the 21 years I had with my Angel Daughter. I work hard to find some measure of peace in these new chapters of life.
The fourth honoring is staying spiritually connected to our loved ones. While none of us knows for certain what death is – or what happens to us when we die — we know that love endures. Expressing our love, opening ourselves to receiving the love of those who have passed are acts of faith. We choose to believe that love is alive, even if only in our own hearts, and take comfort in the feeling that those we love are close. Giving ourselves permission to believe in our angels, communicating with loved ones in “spirit space” (a term I coined from another unseen realm called “cyberspace”) and imagining them to be at peace is not only OK, it’s a healthy, vital part of grieving. The spiritual realm may be beyond our capacity to truly understand or to prove, but so are most matters of faith and science.
Sadly, history will reflect that a horrible tragedy took place on December 14th, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut — and that 20 innocent children and 6 adults died. We do not get to “play God,” know for certain why things like this happen or to go back in time and undo them (if only we had time machines, rewind buttons and Flux Capacitors). What we can do is go on. And do so honorably. Perpetuating the kind of respect, social action and kindness that the Sandy Hook families are requesting is a noble form of honoring. Let us honor them and their loved ones with unprecedented acts of kindness across our nation and world. And let us remember that they will need our continued support, love, patience and understanding in the challenging days, months and years of grief that lie ahead.
So how do we express our support for the families of Sandy Hook? There are several ways you can do this. The Sandy Hook Families recently launched a website – www.MySandyHookFamily.org that honors the lives of those who were so tragically lost on 12/14 and highlights the wonderful foundations that have been established that will benefit others. I encourage you to visit the website which has been established as “a singular place of sharing, communication, and contact with the families of those who lost their lives that day.”
Ken Druck, Ph.D., founder of The Jenna Druck Center in San Diego, is a renowned resilience expert, speaker, organizational and family consultant, and award-winning author of several books including, The Real Rules of Life (Hay House). Follow Ken’s blog or find him on Facebook.
Photo credit: Images by Lisette
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