Coping With Tragedy: The Newtown School Massacre

There are many first responders who have been called to the scene including law enforcement, fire and paramedic, media, and chaplains. They are trying to be professional and do their jobs. This is the kind of call that will permanently imprint itself on...

As all of you have heard by now, a young man opened fire inside an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. on Friday, killing 20 children and six adults before turning the gun on himself.

The impact of this kind of news can take your breath away.  Our hearts break for the parents of these children killed by an evil, evil man.  Our President spoke about this horrible event, and became emotional himself.  President Obama said, “The majority of those who died today were children -- beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old... They had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”  In talking about his own emotion, he said, “I know there's not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do." 

How could such a horrible event happen?  To make matters even worse, it occurred just over a week before Christmas.  The lives of those with children who were murdered today will never be the same.   Many others will never get to see their parent again.  Not only that, but all of those with children at the school will be forever changed.  Christmas will never be the same time of innocence and joy that it was prior to today.  The whole country is in mourning at the time of this national tragedy.

At this time there are more questions than answers.  It is hard to know what to say, or what to do at times like this that seem to “kidnap our souls.”  Sometimes all we can do is to take a moment to take a deep breath, let it out; then take another breath.

There are many first responders who have been called to the scene including law enforcement, fire and paramedic, media, and chaplains.  They are trying to be professional and do their jobs.  This is the kind of call that will permanently imprint itself on their psyche.  They will never forget the horrible visions of gore and life robbed from those who were young and so full of life - the smell of death - and the sound of those who refuse to be comforted, crying, and wailing for those who have been lost.

It is important to realize that everyone has been crushed by this news.  It is ok at times like this to have a emotional side.  Understand you may have to step away for a moment to shed a tear, and take a few deep breaths.  Also understand that you have a job to do, and will need to harness those emotions for a time so you can do your job. 

This call will affect you.  If you have kids, you need to go home after your job is done and hold them.  Give them a big hug and thank God that you have them.  You may say a quick prayer for those who lost their child, brother, sister, friend, or parent today.

As we move past this horrible event over the next few days, understand that you will come off of “automatic pilot.” When you do, you may experience a lot of different emotions.  You may be extremely angry, or very sad.  You may have mood swings.  You may also have physical reactions such as upset stomach and irritable bowels.  Headaches are common, as is exhaustion, and irritability.  Some people will develop a bad cold, or flu symptoms as our immune systems will be weakened.  These and more are all normal reactions to grief and a critical incident like this.

Here are a few coping tips for the next few days:

Take some time to pamper yourself.  Your job is hard enough.  Don’t push yourself too hard during your down time.  Relax, watch a funny movie, and hold the hand of your sweetheart.

Be sure to drink lots of liquids while avoiding caffeine, sugar and alcohol.  Your body will have many different chemicals pumping through it, and it needs help to flush the adrenaline and other chemicals out.  The last thing you want to do is to add more chemicals to the mix by self medicating.  The three ways to dump these chemicals out of our bodies and get to feeling better are to cry them out, sweat them out, or pee them out.  Most people if given a choice will choose to drink lots of water and flush them out that way.

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