How Tragedy Crystalizes What’s Important

Photo by Chris Anastasiou

Photo by Chris Anastasiou

Three weeks ago my words were taken away. Since the Dec. 14th horrific shooting in Newtown, Conn., I haven’t been able to write. I haven’t written in a journal or in this blog until now. Nothing on my previous blog schedule interested me. It felt almost treacherous to write about the mundane holiday stress story, or the single parent wishlist. I couldn’t justify the importance of such trivial, albeit timely, topics. I couldn’t find the energy. On the morning that the events unfolded, I was at home with a very sick four-year-old, and as he slept, I watched the T.V. and wept. And from that moment, nothing—no topic—felt compelling. So, the article with an expert interview on keeping traditions alive post-divorce never got posted. The reviews of the best children’s books to buy this year also fell to the wayside. I just couldn’t muster up the energy to write on these topics.

How could I? There are 26 families who would barely be able to celebrate the holidays this year. Their worlds will never be the same. What about the families in Colorado who lost loved ones this summer in the movie theater mass shooting? What about the families across America who lost babies and children after they tragically found unlocked guns at home and shot themselves accidentally? How many American children have been caught in the cross fires of drive-by shootings? (I read more than 500 people were shot in Chicago this past year!)

Seriously, how many distraught, depressed and lonely people ‘celebrated’ the holidays and rang in 2013 desperately missing family members who were killed by kids wielding guns?

Right now, the media is obsessed with the Fiscal Cliff drama. But I can’t move on from the terribly important topic of keeping our kids safe and healthy. And that INCLUDES the mentally ill kids who desperately need their medications and therapies that may be too expensive or too scarce in many communities. I know I’m not the only person in America in this debate. In fact, the gun rights debate sickens me. I’m originally from the South and am ALL too familiar with the typical NRA stance.

All I know is that right now I just can’t continue to write about typical single parent topics as the ONLY issue weighing heavily on my mind is how Americans can continue to live in a country that allows easy-access to rapid-fire guns and very little access to mental health services. I just can’t muster up the typical parenting topics right now. It just feels treacherous or wrong—like the feeling one must get when watching a magnificent sunset emerge above a battle field strewn with bloody bodies. Yes, life goes on. You and I can forget about Newtown and Boulder and Columbine. But this battlefield will keep emerging. How can it not? America can’t seem to limit its gun sales—and at the same time, doesn’t offer proper and affordable resources to assist the mentally ill. Add our culture of stress and violent video game habits and we’re brewing the right cocktail for yet another mass shooting to emerge in some picturesque town near you.

I’m fairly convinced that we are, in fact, stuck as a country. It will be a long time before I feel safe, or I feel my children are safe. Whenever they travel back to the South, I’ll worry about whether friends or family members have guns in locked safes. As someone who experienced a high school shooting, I know first hand the post-traumatic stress of finding a friend shot and nearly missing your own death at the young age of 16. What that sort of experience must do to a five, six, seven or eight-year-old is unthinkable. Right now, I just don’t think it matters what side of the gun debate you are on. The conversation about whether you think our founding fathers would want everyone (including teachers) to carry guns—or whether you’re thinking about moving to Europe in order to find a safe spot away from machine gun wielders—isn’t the conversation I want to have.

I want to know why we can’t provide better assistance to the mentally ill. I want to know why we can’t keep machine guns or rapid fire assault weapons out of our country. Why are social services departments strapped? Why is it easy for the wealthy to buy prescription drugs online to numb what doesn’t really ail them—but it’s almost impossible for the lesser thans to get medications and counseling they desperately need?

In order for me to feel inspired to write about the topics of helping children of divorce feel safe and thrive—I need to feel as if they have a fighting chance of surviving elementary school, middle school and high school first. Our children’s safety is what should connect all of us—no matter what side of the gun debate or raising taxes to provide more social services argument we may fall.

In the new year, expect to find more articles that explore the stigma of mental illness; services for the mentally ill; stress-coping skills for teens and tweens and parents; post-traumatic stress from trauma (and this includes nasty divorce trauma) and kids; and combating violence at home and at school. I’ll still have posts specifically for single moms, but I just can’t ignore what’s really important. It would be like getting diagnosed with cancer and deciding to take an Asprin and wish for the best. Here’s to a safe New Year in America and a future for our children.

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2 responses to “How Tragedy Crystalizes What’s Important

  1. Well said Laura at a time when few words suffice.

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