Grappling with Uvalde tragedy: Finding space to mourn, support and heal

By Leah Persky, PhD & CFLE, Family Life Education Manager

Just 11 days after a violent racist attack in New York, we learn the horrific news of 19 children and two teachers killed by yet another senseless act of violence – this time in Uvalde, Texas. Our hearts are broken. . . AGAIN. Processing this news is not easy; most of us feel such deep sadness and anger. Our hearts ache for the devastating losses to the families and community, which has lost so much.

Taking time to mourn this tragedy is necessary and important for families and communities. This is especially so for those of us that send our children or grandchildren to school each day. For me, this morning was especially challenging. I was reluctant to send my elementary-aged kids off to school on the bus. Are they safe? What would I do if the worst happened? All of these questions probably crossed the minds of most parents today and will continue to do so in the future. The next question of why we continue to live with this horrific state of affairs has been with me ever since.

The U.S. has the highest rate of gun homicides of any economically developed nation. Mass shootings have become more common and no less horrific over time as the debate around gun policy has continued, with few changes to the status quo. The Sandy Hook massacre took place approximately 10 years ago. As parents, families and communities continue to grapple with this horrific violence, we must strive for positive change for a peaceful and safer nation, while simultaneously finding space to mourn, support and heal.

Many parents are also probably grappling with how to discuss this latest event with their children. There are no easy answers, but we must address what happened and open up a space for conversation and the opportunity to express your love and support and answer questions. Over the coming weeks, take time to slow down and be together, turn off media and news, work on re-establishing routines or setting  new summer routines to create more stability, and set aside time to answer questions your child may have.

Clear, direct language without much detail is best for elementary-aged kids. You can have more in-depth discussions with children middle-school age and older to explore the issue together, emphasizing love and safe spaces throughout the conversation. You know your child best; let this knowledge guide you. For additional resources, check out this website from the American Psychiatric Association: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/coping-after-disaster-trauma

JFCS Parent Coaching can provide additional resources and support in this challenging time. To get in touch and learn more, see the following: https://www.jfcsmpls.org/parent-coaching-interest-form/