Collectively grieving Newtown, CT

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This email came in over the weekend:

By: Armin VogelCC BY 2.0
Hello lovely people of Offbeat Families, I realize that you’re all probably getting a lot of inquiries about the Newtown shooting, and am going to guess that you are currently discussing how to bring it up/mourn it/ post about it, and I would just like to say that I’m sure there are many many other people like me that would like to see something on here where we can mourn/cry/discuss the actual issue without worrying about it twisting into political topics like gun control, etc. I live one town over, minutes away from where the shooting happened, and it has affected me directly although I am blessed not to have lost any children, I know I would really appreciate something on here where we can all acknowledge our fears but also support each other in this time of both local and national grief.

Thank you always, for being so awesome, and such wonderful people. Y’all make the world a better place.


Stephanie and I are both completely devastated by the situation in Newtown, with Stephanie being especially freaked out since she already survived one shooting last week (she and her son were at the mall in Oregon last Tuesday when three people were shot and killed).

The two of us have been talking all weekend, and we just don’t have much to contribute to the discussions about Newtown — we’re grief-stricken and heartbroken, but not in an especially offbeat way. We’re just reading the news and crying in the exact same ways that most everyone else is. For me personally, I’m simply too raw and upset about the whole thing to even try to articulate anything coherent, let alone try to get into sharing my perspectives in a public arena. For me, this is the kind of experience I process privately with my family.

That said, I do want to provide a place for Offbeat Families to support each other through the grief we’re all experiencing as we emerge from the terrible events of last week. If you’re in a place where you want to discuss it feel free.

Comments on Collectively grieving Newtown, CT

  1. Please keep in mind that Stephanie and I are both extremely raw about this issue, and moderating comments is a significant emotional commitment. If things start to feel like they’re sliding off the rails in ways that make either of us uncomfortable, we’ll be closing comments. We’re doing our best to provide a safe space for y’all to have a discussion, but we also are trying to avoid sobbing into our laptops any more than we’re already doing today.

  2. I struggle with depression, and events like this are always triggering. I saw a series of photos of the precious babies yesterday, and afterwards, I couldn’t be bothered to leave the bed. It’s not just this particular trauma, but all the children throughout the world who are the victims of unspeakable violence. Coming so soon after the recent troubles in Gaza & Israel didn’t help matters.

    What helps me is turning the grief into something constructive. It’s easy to get lost in hopelessness, but knowing that with effort we can collectively effect change does bring me some peace.

    Still, seeing their smiling faces is a bit too hard to take at the moment, and will be for the considerable future.

    • Nora. I feel the same way. Sometimes I feel so guilty because I have to hide from the media to be able to function at all for my kids, I feel like I am failing as a witness to these unspeakable acts. It probably offers little to no comfort, but I feel ya.

      • I can relate to that. Since I had my son almost 5 years ago, I haven’t been able to watch the news. Every time I see something tragic happening to children, I get overwhelmed by my anxiety and almost become completely nonfunctional. I’m better about it now, but it still takes all of my energy to be able to get out of bed, and let my son out of my sight.

        I can’t look at their faces right now either. It’s too unbearable, and I keep breaking down.

  3. I think the worse part is that we don’t see these things coming. It puts a fear in my heart, and I hate that. I want to be able to do something so that people don’t hurt each other like this. But I don’t know what I can do. I can’t even understand how someone gets to the point where they do these things. I feel like if I could just understand it, then I could do something. But I’m just so clueless and helpless about it all. It just crushes me.

  4. Thank you Ariel and Stephanie for creating this safe space for communicating. I’m writing from the UK but am an Oregon native and was also shocked by the Clackamas mall shooting in Oregon where my sister and nephew live in Portland. And then of course the next day finding out about the school shooting was indescribable, my nephew is the same age as the children who died. Even though I’m abroad I care very much about what this means for school safety (my mom’s also a teacher) and gun control (my dad is a gun collector, target shooter, hunter) in America. Being so far away, I felt like I needed to take action of some sort to show my support for the victims and chose to do this by making a donation to the Brady Campaign which promotes sensible gun regulation. America you are in my prayers and I hope that as parents we can be united to create a safe country for our children.

  5. An article that has shown up a couple of times on my Facebook newsfeed since Friday has been this one about mental health illness

    Written by a mother who has a son suffering from severe mental health issues I found it to be a very interesting point of view and maybe something people should be discussing along with their gun control thoughts

  6. as a midwifery student and someone who has read (and loves) offbeat families ever since offbeat bride helped me survive the wedding planning process a few years ago, this has halted me in my tracks as we begin the talking stage of family planning. the thought of having to explain this devastation to any child, not to mention my own child, seems almost unbearable to me. i’ve been doing a lot of crying and thinking. i don’t know what illusion of control over life i thought i had before, but like another poster said…i don’t know what i can do.

  7. My son turns 6 Friday.
    He has Asperger’s.
    My stepson is 9.
    He also has Asperger’s.
    They attend elementary school together.

    I just can’t stop thinking “what if..”. The media was quick to link autism and the guy, but are now trying to back-peddle. This morning was extremely hard for me.

    I guess I don’t have much to add. I just needed to say that because I haven’t spoken to anyone yet about my thoughts, but I know I needed to get my thoughts out.

  8. A religious leader said a few things in an email to me about the incident which touches on how to discuss this tragedy with children.
    1- the bad man who did it is dead, and he can not hurt anyone else physically.
    2- your school will be even more safe now than before this happened so nothing like this happens ever again.
    3- the news is reporting this because it is extraordinary. Take that word apart extra ordinary. Things like this don’t happen every day, which is why they are reporting on it.
    4- we can do one random act of kindness in the life of a child every day in memory of the children who died. If you’re a child, do something nice for your teacher, because they need support too now.

  9. As a fellow Oregonian with a sister whose job takes her to the Clackamas mall weekly (she’s pregnant with twins and, thankfully, was feeling tired and went home early that day) this past week has been…unimaginable. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who feels utterly heartbroken and helpless. Where do we,as a country, as humans, go from here?

  10. The best thing to keep in mind is that each individual person will process this in their own way. For some that is sadness, others anger, and more still will strive toward activism. Allow others to mourn as they see fit; resist the urge to critique or reject the methods presented.

    I personally will strive to remember the names and faces of the victims as opposed to the shooter. To be remembered is something each of us wants, so I intend to give proper remembrance to those who deserve it.

    And, perhaps, the best form of respect that I can pay to this tragedy is to hold my own son that much closer this holiday season.

  11. Both my husband and me are people with mental illnesses. Our child has a higher than average risk of being mentally ill in his/her lifetime. Its scary that the last few times this has happened, mental illness always seems to be implicated. I’m glad to see mental illness being discussed in any way, but I’m worried that the media will not cover it in the right way, or sensationalize it. The mentally ill are largely peaceful. However, I can’t deny that there is a small number who do pose dangers to others. How to deal with them, I really don’t know. But for now, I’m going to keep quiet about it, because I worry about the messages that are being put out there. I just really hope that this time, finally, maybe mental health can really come to the fore and maybe, we can start to see meaningful discussions about it.

  12. I grew up not far from Newtown, and now teach in a public high school in a community not too different from there. Suffice to say, I was nervous about coming to school this morning, but to my surprise, NO ONE wanted to talk about what happened. I’m scared that witch hunts of already-ostracized kids are going to pop up. I’m really scared that families aren’t talking about this at home. I’m even MORE scared that aspects of the tragedy are already being spun into platforms for political and social zealotry, which will scare people away from necessary conversations because they don’t wish to offend or get involved. As a teacher, and as a mother, I am devastated and horrified, and sincerely hope that individual families and communities do a better job of sharing and being open about these events than I have seen so far.

  13. While I have wept and sobbed over this event, right now I feel tired. I’m tired that the possibility of a shooting hung over my head throughout middle and high school. I’m tired of worrying about my nieces and nephews and future kids.

    I think America needs to have a discussion about mental illness, and how to better deal with it. I have depression, and I had to be ready to kill myself before I could get the help I needed.

    But it definitely should not turn into a witch hunt for anyone with mental problems. I already hide my depression from everyone but my close friends. I worry about things like these shootings making things worse for people like me.

    Sigh. I wish things like this didn’t happen. I want to hug my nieces and nephews so tight and never let go. But they probably won’t let me. 🙂

  14. I’m so glad to find a place to put this down without all the ridiculousness I’ve seen on other boards. As a parent (a 3 yr old and one on the way), I’ve been devastated. Someone on my Facebook posted pics with the names of the children who were killed and their pictures. I’m not sure how I managed to get to work without bawling after that.
    But I’m also furious. I’m furious that it happened, and I’m even angrier at the reaction I’ve seen on the Internet. To see what happened become politicized, to be used as a platform for people to spew their agendas, it makes me sick. How can we have meaningful discussion when everyone’s too busy up on their soapbox to listen? This is a time to come together as human-f’ing-beings, not for BS. Sorry, rant over.
    Thanks for giving me a place to put this. I really hope some good comes out of this horrible event, and I hope the families of those lost can find peace one day.

  15. Last night I saw the slideshow of pictures of the children who were killed on CNN . It is the first time I have ever bawled my eyes out over something on the news. They were such beautiful little kids and having faces to put with the tragedy just really made it hit home for me. Also, I am sorry to hear about what you went through, Stephanie. It seems the world can be especially disheartening sometimes.

  16. I’d like to suggest a powerful song called The World Don’t Work by Canadian Singer-songwriter David Myles about grief and coming through the other side.

    And here are the lyrics:

    The world don’t work the way that we want
    The world don’t work the way that we want
    You can hope for the best
    But be ready for a test
    Cause the world don’t work the way that we want

    I lost a good friend only months ago
    I lost a good friend only months ago
    She was still young
    Her song was hardly sung
    I lost a good friend only months ago

    There’s so much out there
    That can tempt you with despair
    There’s so much that can make you want to cry
    But I will not hang my head
    I’m going to sing a song instead
    Cause there’s still one truth that no grief can deny

    It’s to be loved by somebody
    That’s what it’s all about
    To give your love to somebody else
    To be loved be somebody
    That’s what it’s all about
    To give your love to somebody else

  17. The other night, my boyfriend and I were out to dinner with our kids, they’re 2 and 3. They both had to use the bathroom so I took them at the same time, which tuned out to be bit of a disaster. My daughter kept opening my stall door, my son squished a little old lady in the bathroom door when he was trying to open it while I washed my hands, then my daughter broke free of my hand on the way back to our table and almost knocked over a server carrying a bunch of dishes. By the time I got back to the table, I was a little stressed and feeling irritated. My boyfriend grabbed my hand as I sat down and gently whispered, “There are probably people tonight who wish they could have their children annoy them in the bathroom again.”
    Just that little reminder of how lucky I am and how precious every moment with my kids is, was just what I needed to help me cope. I hug my kids a little tighter this week, kiss them more often, and I’m quick to change my tone if I feel myself losing my temper.

    • Similar story: Friday night I went out to dinner with my son and some friends, who also have toddlers. At one point, the three toddlers were in a hallway behind the restaurant (it lead to the building’s shared bathrooms), running up and down the hallway chasing each other and screaming.

      At one point, a woman entered the hallway just as the kids’ happy shrieks were reaching a feverish crescendo. I gave her an apologetic look and said, “Ack, sorry!” and she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “The children are beautiful. They’re so beautiful.”

      If nothing else, this terrible tragedy has perhaps helped remind all of us how precious the children around us can be.

  18. There’s a wonderful song by folk singer Dan Bern, written after the Columbine Shooting, which I’ve been listening to a lot over the past few days. It helps. Listen to Kid’s Prayer here, or read the lyrics.

    The moral:

    “Talk to your kids
    Play with your kids
    Tell them your dreams
    And your disappointments
    Listen with your kids
    Listen to your kids
    Watch your kids
    Let your kids watch you
    Tell your kids the truth
    Best as you can tell it
    No use telling lies
    Your kids can always smell it
    Cook for your kids
    Let your kids cook for you
    Sing with your kids
    Teach your kids the blues
    Learn their games
    Teach them yours
    Touch your kids
    Find out what they know
    Be sad with your kids
    Be stupid with your kids
    Learn with your kids
    Cry with you kids
    Be yourself with your kids
    Be real with your kids
    Embarrass your kids
    Let them embarrass you
    Be strong with your kids
    Be tough with your kids
    Be firm with your kids
    Say “No” to your kids
    Say “Yes” to your kids
    Take it easy on your kids
    You were a kid
    Not so long ago
    There are things you know
    Your kids will never know
    There�s places they live
    Where you will never go
    So dance with your kids
    Paint with your kids
    Walk with your kids
    Tell stories to your kids
    Watch movies with your kids
    Eat popcorn with your kids
    Tell secrets to your kids
    Stop for rainbows with your kids
    One day your kids
    Won’t be kids
    And maybe they’ll have kids of their own
    Let’s hope they talk to their kids
    Play with their kids
    Tell them their dreams
    And their disappointments.”

  19. My sister shared this poem on facebook. Its helped me.

    to love life, to love it even
    when you have no stomach for it
    and everything you’ve held dear
    crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
    your throat filled with the silt of it.
    When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
    thickening the air, heavy as water
    more fit for gills than lungs;
    when grief weights you like your own flesh
    only more of it, an obesity of grief,
    you think, How can a body withstand this?
    Then you hold life like a face
    between your palms, a plain face,
    no charming smile, no violet eyes,
    and you say, yes, I will take you
    I will love you, again.
    —Ellen Bass

  20. this hit close to home on so many levels. I know someone who works at the clackamas mall, I have a coworker who lost his nephew in Newton. My cousin teaches a kindergarten class, and I’ve worked with kids who are very much like what people purport this shooter to have been (who I worry for even more now, since I only hope they do not catch backlash from this… unless that backlash comes in the form of more support & easier care). My heart hurts for all of them, these things feel so close to home.

    I’m also pregnant, and when I read the news after the Newton shooting I thought, “OK, this baby can just stay inside of me forever.” Immediately afterward, I thought, “No. I will not be that mom.” These things are coming up in the news more and more, and there are no fast & easy solutions. Scarier still, there is no fool-proof way to protect my kids from these things — short of locking them in the basement and becoming the monster myself (which, obviously, not a real option).

    There’s just no easy way to process these things. I think a lot of people feel the urge to do something, anything, as a way to process & show support. Often, the easiest thing to do is start in on political arguments and campaigns; it’s not necessarily always the most supportive thing, but it is a way to feel powerful in an instance where most feel powerless. I’m trying to give friends on facebook/wherever a wide berth in these conversations mostly for my own mental health, but I can understand the passion behind it. I feel lost, but I know I’m not alone with that feeling.

    Thank you for creating a safe space here.

  21. I, too, am an American in the UK like someone who posted above, and watched things unfold from the other side of the ocean.

    For the first time in my life, the question of kids is a definite ‘yes’ with a rough schedule; though it is five years away, it’s still plotted there as this wonderful Englishman and I weave our life together. I’m also on the verge of becoming an aunt; fully stepping into being ‘the parent’ generation has happened recently after a several year journey getting here (7 years of ‘the kids’ table being absent as my generation all left college, got married, etc and we all graduated to the ‘real’ table), so I have already been feeling somewhat overwhelmed with the emotions and responsibilities before this past week.

    I was already crying, reading the reports, imagining the parents, when I came across the one that put the blade through my own heart; the little British boy from my partner’s mum’s home county, with the British father and the American mother with whom I share a first name. It was just too close, too much when I’ve already been worrying about what set of grandparents to be near, comparative health services, locations best for our careers, education, etc.

    I feel like it’s made me face, far, far earlier than I would have liked, that to be the parent I want to be, to raise the happy and independent ‘future adults’, while I can support them all I like, there is *so much* I won’t ever be able to protect them from.

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