It happened again. HOW? How did this happen again.
On Tuesday, I noticed quite a few posts on Instagram about gun law reform.
I thought “oh no, was there ANOTHER shooting?” And I begrudgingly opened the NYTimes app.
Yep. More gun violence. A school shooting. IN AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. 19 CHILDREN DEAD. AND 2 TEACHERS.
Why, this time, does it feel different?
How is it possible, that this time, instead of feeling horrified and enraged, I feel – nothing?
Instead I feel… numb? And dare I say – unsurprised?
HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE.
Have I somehow adapted myself to gun violence? Am I used to it being the norm?
Why can’t I feel the grief of this tragedy?
How is it so easy for me to look away? And distract myself with mindless television? Am I a monster???
It turns out that when we are faced with tragedy over and over again, detaching ourselves is a very human reaction. It’s called psychic numbing, and there are ways to navigate it.
Of course, over the next few days, there is an unwavering pain in my chest. I muster the stomach to look more closely at the news. I have no appetite for the rest of the day.
And I experience tearful outbursts of sadness and grief. Inability to focus. Anger. Worry. EXHAUSTION.
But the new feeling that has emerged this time is powerlessness.
What are we supposed to do? These completely senseless and horrific acts of violence COULD SO EASILY BE PREVENTED. Why do they keep happening?
We vote. And we donate.
We protest, and fight and protest again. Then we call our senators. At this point, they all know what 80% of us want.
We go to therapy, and we reach out to loved ones for support. Try our best to take care of ourselves. We do all the things.
But NOTHING CHANGES. Instead, we seem to be moving backwards.
AND CHILDREN ARE DYING FOR NO REASON.
TEACHERS ARE SACRIFICING THEIR OWN LIVES to protect their students. And then unwillingly leave their own children without parents.
The suffering of those directly impacted by gun violence trauma is unimaginable. Lives are changed forever.
And even if you’ve never had a direct experience with it, it is likely you’ve still been deeply impacted.
Because we are all being traumatized by gun violence when we look at the news and see another nightmare unfold.
It doesn’t matter that it happens in a state you don’t live in. In a town you’ve never visited. To people you don’t know. And will likely never meet.
We are all connected to the unimaginable grief that the loved ones of the victims are going through. It’s impacting the world around us. It’s impacting all of our lives.
I know as a therapist, I’m supposed to be offering hope. I’m supposed to try and make you feel like it will get better.
But the truth is, I don’t know how this is still happening. I don’t know how or when it’s going to get better.
A friend of mine said, “We just have to hang on tight for another 20 years until these older white men are no longer in office.” And she might be right.
So every day, for the next 20 years, we have to do our best to love and hold onto those we care about. Because you just don’t know when it’ll be your last chance to do so.
And even though we’re tired, and we feel completely powerless, and the violence keeps happening, over the next 20 years, WE CANNOT GIVE UP.
You can learn more about the H.R.8 and S.529 Bills to expand background checks for gun sales here.
And, you can donate to the victim’s families here.
And if you need to talk to someone, a list of resources can be found here.