Carry On

December 17th, 2012

Do you guys feel like you’re just flailing in the dark? I am having a hard time, and I’ll be honest, I’m not usually a person who has a hard time with these things—not because I’m a cold-hearted snake, but because I have a way of keeping a protective shell of denial around me at all times to shield me from the actual reality of what could happen and frankly, of what has happened. A lifelong anxiety sufferer, I’ve always gone back to my cognitive behavioral therapy lessons — think about statistical probability, think about what you CAN control, think about the moment right in front of you, not the moments that may or may not (and probably won’t) come.

I do this because if I don’t, I flail in the dark and spend a lot of time thinking about how terrifying the world is. When I was first put on medication (a short-lived stint on Paxil, the devil’s med), it was years and years ago, shortly after Adam and I got engaged, and I became paralyzed with fear that something would happen to him — he would cross the street and a bus would come; mustard gas would fall from the sky; he’d choke on a South Korean chicken ball. (Bonus points if you can tell me the movie where that happened to someone.) I used to think about not having children, in part because I literally could not fathom how I would live just sending them out into the world unprotected, because all those things could happen to THEM, too, right?

I don’t know how to work through this. Adam said earlier that he doesn’t know how to digest it, and I think that’s a good word — digest. You think through things, take what you need to take, and purge the rest. I can’t figure out how to do that, so it just sits there like a rock. I keep wanting to throw up — literally — because then, what, I’ll feel better? This isn’t food poisoning. It’s not a virus that will run its course. I can’t get rid of it, and nothing I do will make it go away.

I didn’t know anyone involved. This isn’t my tragedy, and by writing this, I’m not trying to make it so or make it about me, it’s just honestly, I do not know how to process this, and I’m hoping that by writing it down, maybe I will, a little, and maybe you will and maybe some way we can get through this without losing our minds, because right now I’m not confident that’s even a possibility.

I have delayed reactions to things. I float in denial for a few days, and then bam! I can’t get it out of my head. I’m there now, right as everyone else is at least attempting to return to normal. While everyone else is returning to normal, I am just sinking into the pit.

What gets me about tragedies like this is the awful way it makes me — and I’m imagining, other people — think. Everyone’s hugging their babies a little tighter, grateful for them; but what it really feels like is thanking God that someone else’s babies were taken instead of yours. “Thank God they didn’t go to MY kid’s classroom,” we all think in moments of weakness.

And that’s when it starts feeling really sick. Like the reaping is upon us and if we have to choose — if this is the price of living in our world — let it be someone else who has to do without. The completely understandable, sickening selfishness we’re all reduced to is what keeps me up at night. I blame no one for thinking this way, as I do, too, and I hate it. I hate it. I hate feeling grateful for what I have at the cost of someone else, but I don’t know how else to think. I don’t know what else to think about. I don’t want to see your instagram picture of how grateful you are to hug your babies, because someone else isn’t, and that feels shitty, but at the same time? I need to see it. I need to hug my kids, I need to reassure myself that it can’t happen, even though it’s a total lie.

I don’t know how to thank God without a desperate anger about what happened to someone else. God works in mysterious ways, they say, but right now, I’m feeling kind of like screaming, hey fuck that shit, this is crap, and we don’t have to put up with it. Where is management? Who can I talk to about this experience? I want a do-over, a refund, a guarantee. I want a guarantee! Where is my fucking guarantee? I didn’t sign up for this.

Columbine, September 11 and this — three events that cost me so little in terms of collateral damage, but so much in innocence lost. This. This is the hardest in some ways — after 9/11, there was a certain xenophobic false sense of safety; an us vs. them situation, the ability to move forward drawn from the realization that the calls, at least, were not coming from inside the house. Columbine, a little tougher — disillusioned and disenfranchised high school students lashing out the only place they knew how. But this? I got nothing here. I got a kid — a random kid — shooting up LITTLE kids, and this time. This time, I’m a parent, and it’s not to say I care more about humanity than I did before, it’s that I can visualize, with greater clarity, exactly what those kids were like.

Before my children were born, my knowledge of a six-year-old was hardly intimate — a fleeting stage of my nephews that happened in an instant and was quickly forgotten. I could pretend a six-year-old had little knowledge of what was happening. I can’t anymore. I know exactly, in intimate detail, what kids that age are like.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to look. Shit, I don’t even know who to pray to or what for, because I’m so angry that this was allowed to happen. I don’t know where to put this anger and I don’t even know if what I’m saying is right or sensitive or appropriate or any of those things, I just don’t know what else to do. I don’t know how to get up and live in a world where this shit just HAPPENS and we’re supposed to carry on with our lives without throwing up from pure terror. We’re just supposed to DEAL with it, and no one asked us if that was okay.

Help me figure out what to do. I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m lost, and I’ll bet you are too.

*Uh, Fun. Also, I did not edit this. At all.

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Entry Filed under: Gettin' thinky with it

72 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amanda C  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    I totally get it, I do. It’s just too much to process. I can’t get past thinking of those terrified babies, their lives taken so violently in an instant…their family members who will have to go to that school and pick up their belongings. My heart is broken for those families and that community. Thank you for putting into words what a lot of us can’t say right now.

  • 2. Diane  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    I don’t know, either. I really don’t. I have a six-year-old, and I just can’t. She doesn’t know anything about this, at least as far as I know (and I have been gently prying to see if she’s heard anything that has upset her, because they sent home a memo from school, and it’s not like this kid can’t READ, but it didn’t say anything specific) and just keeping my fingers crossed that she doesn’t hear a word about it until she is old enough to process it. (So a hundred and ten, give or take.) She is a really sensitive kid, like I was (still am) and I don’t know. I don’t think I could get her out the door to school if she knew this sort of thing happens in the world.

    I’m just babbling, really. I feel like we all need somewhere to process this where no one is arguing and we can all just agree that it was a terrible thing that happened and now we have to figure out how to keep breathing. Maybe this will be that place.

  • 3. Catkins  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Yeah. This exactly. I feel so terrible and I don’t know how to stop it. I give money to funds and hug my kids and it doesn’t make it better. I have a 5 year old and when I dropped her off at school today, I almost lost it.
    It’s just that this isn’t supposed to happen to KIDS.
    I don’t believe there is a god and this is one reason. I can’t thank someone for the good things and expect to believe that there is a plan for the bad. In what plan do CHILDREN die? And not just in America. What bastard plans for children to starve and get beaten and die ?!
    Woah, that took quite a turn. Sorry.
    My point is that this is exactly what I’ve been thinking since Friday. I mean, sort of since every time I start thinking about it, I almost throw up and force myself to think of something else.

  • 4. Erin Morrow  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    This is exactly how I feel, too. I can’t…come to any kind of understanding about it. I read tweets and check Facebook and everything-seriously, EVERYTHING-that people say-whether I agree with it or not, just makes me feel sad, bewildered, scared, and pissed off. I can’t formulate a coherent thought and I just feel so…ugh. There’s nothing to say or do that will bring those babies back. And yes, I know lots of changes need to be made, but I just think of those families and just. Yeah. I don’t know, man. It is such a terrible thing, and that’s it. There’s no solace to be had. Thanks for letting me ramble anyway.

  • 5. Jen  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    I am lost too. I am frustrated and angry and sad and just desperately wish that this was NOT REAL and didn’t happen to those babies. I am finding myself nervously emailing Avery’s preschool teacher and wanting to thank her and hug her and mapping out their classroom in my head and wondering WHERE COULD THEY HIDE? It’s crazy-making and awful and I am having to force myself to turn off CNN and turn on The Voice right now.

    I wish I could help you figure it out. I know that for me, it’s probably going to be a one day at a time thing. Watching a little less news today than I watched yesterday, crying a little less today than I did yesterday…and to stop trying to understand anything about this because it’s impossible to understand.

    So to summarize, I’ve got nothing. I am heartbroken too.

  • 6. Grace  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Yes, all this, exactly. I told someone in the CT area that I felt the best thing I could do was tell her (them) I ache with her, and say no more. Just listen. At least, that’s my plan, or all I feel I can/should do.

  • 7. Carrie (in MN)  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    I’m in pretty much the same place. I can’t cope with this. I can’t, as Adam said, digest it. I want to be able to process it because I want to feel galvanized to do something, but I just can’t handle it. I followed Friday as it was happening and then I reached a point where I was on overload so I went and took a nap – really, I think my mind just blew a circuit so I shut down. I think I was hoping, I remember vaguely hoping, that I would wake up and it wouldn’t be true anymore. Since then I’ve made the unsustainable decision to bury my head in the sand – I’m not reading the paper, I’m not listening to the news and I am usually a news junkie. I don’t know what I’m waiting for – it’s not going to get any more bearable.

    Today my kids’ teachers told talked to them about the murders and told them that they (the teachers) would die to protect their students. Would die to protect their students. Would die to protect their students – I, I can’t handle that. I am so touched that these teachers would say that, but I can’t handle that my kids had to hear it. I can’t handle that these teachers would have to think about that scenario. I can’t handle that these teachers, teachers everywhere, have to think to themselves – yes, I will lay down my life to protect these children who are not my own. Or no, I won’t lay down my life, because you know – that isn’t really in their job description. That is a level of sacrifice that we all like to think we would make, but if we’re not soldiers or police officers or firefighters, we’re not really supposed to have to make.

    I’m with you. I don’t know how to move on, or through this. I want to be galvanized, but I’m paralyzed.

  • 8. Maria  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    This is really spot on to how I feel, except it hit me immediately in the moment with no denial phase. I’m glad you shared how you feel.

  • 9. Kate  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    I’m there with you. It’s like all the joy and gratitude has been sucked out of the world. One of my friends said today that she felt like she was walking in cement. I want to move forward, but I don’t know how to get anywhere.
    I’m trying very hard to remember to choose love instead of fear, but I mostly just feel like I choose sorrow.
    I will say that the only thing that has helped at all is talking to other people–in real life or in print. Community is the only salve I’ve come up with. I hope that it helps you, too.
    Peace to you, sweet friend.

  • 10. Cherie Beyond  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    I think about this a lot, this problem of the modern world. We know about so much suffering. Shootings three states away, starving children in the Sudan, drone attacks in Pakistan, melting ice in polar regions, civil unrest all over the damn place. And we can do what about it? Nothing. Can I do anything about women and children caught in crossfire in Afghanistan? No. No, I cannot. What I do is help the people who need it right in my community. This is how human society is supposed to work. We are supposed to help the people next door. And I know this.

    But this modern world and modern information system confuses things and makes everything feel like it is next door. Sudan? Next door. Polar ice caps? Next door. Syrian revolution? It’s right next door so why aren’t I doing something? I SHOULD BE DOING SOMETHING.

    Our reptile brains are shutting down from crisis overstimulation. I love the internet. I love how I can know about anything that is happening anywhere in the world. It’s a damn miracle. But I think it may be kind of causing us to rot a bit from within.

    I…I may have lost the thread here. I think it’s time for bed.

  • 11. mar  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    I just don’t know. Everything I’ve read makes me tear up. Over lunch I read an article with mini bios of almost all of the children and adults. Not a parent and I cannot fully fathom any of this. At all.

    Also, Hello Again?

  • 12. H  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    I keep thinking of the teacher who told each of her students that she loved them because she was afraid those would be the last words they heard before they died. Somehow that act encompasses the horror of the situation and the bravery, love and compassion demonstrated by “the good guys.”

    Thank you for retweeting Ann Curry’s idea because today I started doing 26 acts of kindness. It is all I can do because somehow countering evil with kindness seems appropriate, even though it does nothing to help those directly suffering. I mentioned the idea to my son, who is 24, when he stopped home tonight and I hope he follows through.

    I know it isn’t enough, but it is all I have.

  • 13. Christine  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Two years ago a friend of mine lost her two year old to ongoing cardiac issues. She lives in Newtown, where she was raised and where her sisters and their elementary aged children live. My first thought when I heard of this was “please not them.” And man. I’ m so thankful that it wasn’t them. And God, I’m sad and frustrated that it was my first thought. And fuck I’ve got nothing. I’m just angry and sad and tired that this just keeps happening.

  • 14. Katie  |  December 17th, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    You know, I didn’t do the denial thing and I am still flailing wildly. I don’t know if it’s because I know someone who lost someone, but I cannot stop picturing that little boy (Noah) and what he must have felt when that whole thing happened. How long did it last? Did he know what was happening? These thoughts cycle through my head all day long. I am just so terribly saddened, if that’s even a strong enough word, maybe devastated, for those children. For what they had to go through, for all they never get to go through, for their parents and families. And for the survivors, for all of us, for losing the last shred of innocence we had.

    Flailing. I am doing it wildly.

  • 15. Vicki  |  December 17th, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Thank you for this. My husband keeps asking me what’s wrong and I just…can’t…put it into words. But this is exactly how I feel. And every time I try to explain how I feel, I just feel like throwing up instead. We don’t have kids yet but I grew up helping with my much younger sister and I remember exactly what she was like at that age. And we’ve recently decided to start trying for kids…which you know feels like a less-than-stellar decision right this second. We were at a sports bar last night and there was a tribute on WWE – a tolling bell for each life. I live about an hour from Newtown and the previously deafening bar was completely silent about half way through. I almost lost my shit in a Buffalo Wild Wings. sigh. I got nothing, either. And I think that’s what makes this so hard – there is absolutely no upside. Nothing that makes this worthwhile or okay or even part of it acceptable.

  • 16. Nic  |  December 17th, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    I’ve had to opt out of news coverage. It’s a self-protective mechanism. I’ve been glancing through Wikipedia once a day to read updates of information. I had to make the determination of what would be beneficial/informative to me. You know me, I thrive off of the facts. Facts and figures! They make sense.

    The human interest pieces destroy me. They compound the horror of this senseless act. Senseless horror x senseless terror = sobbing. I feel like I should allow myself to feel that horrible because the pain those directly affected by it is so great, and because feeling horrible seems like the least I can do.

    And then I turn combative and argue facts that I do know (I’m turning into quite the mental health issue bitch). I scream for gun control reform. I froth at the mouth over anyone mentioning autism in conjunction with this disaster. It’s the only thing I can do.

    But I have to learn to sit with it. There will never be sufficient answers. There is no single, uncomplicated solution to prevent this from happening again. It is the large-scale destruction of life and innocence. It is an intrusion into every perceived sense of security we have. And there’s nothing we can do about it. No matter how horrifying the images or the story, the scariest, most disturbing thing we face is that there is nothing we can do to fix this or understand this. We have to sit with it and grieve; eventually we will all be able to stick our heads back into the sand and blissfully ignore the potential evils of the world and our inescapable vulnerability.

  • 17. Megan  |  December 17th, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Thanks for writing this all out. I don’t really have a lot to add to it, or even much to say. It just makes me feel better and less alone. I can’t really even describe how I feel.

    I always think the same things: Were they scared? Were they in pain? Did they know they were dying? I see that I am not the only one who thought these things. It makes me more upset, but I can’t help doing it. It’s not just big tragic events like these either. I thought these things when Steve’s friend died suddenly, when I had a friend in high school die suddenly and when I hear about people who die alone. I just can’t help it. It makes me sick to my stomach to think of someone alone and hurting, probably scared out of their mind. I’m glad those babies were not alone. I’m glad they had teachers and other kids with them. Somehow, in a twisted way, that makes me feel more at peace with it.

  • 18. melanie  |  December 17th, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Today as I walked my 7yr old to school he happily walked towards the door with a little hop in his step (that I usually tell him he has giddy-up in his go) and just as he started in the door he turned around and waved (likely at the dog if I am honest) and I almost lost it right there in the street. If not for the 4yr old beside me who I didn’t want to upset I probably would have. All I kept thinking is 20 sets of parents may have waved to their kids at the bus or school door… Just like me…and it was more than I could wrap my head around. At church my priest said “be not afraid” is mentioned over 300 times in the bible and its something I have repeated in my head many times the past two days.

  • 19. craftyashley  |  December 17th, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I’ve been struggling with this too. I can at least somewhat understand a messed up teenager shooting his high school bullies and whatnot. I can even be less shaken by a movie theater shooting. But shooting little kids? I know how cute and sweet they are at this age, and I just can’t do it. I can’t NOT be thinking about it constantly. And those picture montage of the victims? I DIE CRYING. I tell myself that I can hug my kids a little tighter and cherish them more, but then they go and perpetrate a classic 6 yr old jerk move on me and throw temper tantrums. And then! Then I feel guilty for not cherishing them enough! I feel like it is my duty to soak up the joy extra for all those parents who lost their precious ones. It’s just… There is no way to process it. My husband is tired of hearing about it, but I feel like you, flailing.

  • 20. Miss Night  |  December 17th, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    I am a kindergarten teacher. I feel like I am just sort of swimming through this, bobbing around in a sea of things that might hurt when I bump into them. I ask myself a hundred times a day if I could do what those teachers did, and i think I could, but… I never want to find out, and I’m afraid that someday I will, and when my school e-mailed all staff today to remind us of our recently upgraded “perimeter security procedures” I nearly ran into the Head’s office screeching that HE SHOT HIS WAY IN I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PERIMETER SECURITY PROCEDURES. I have guilt about being glad to hug my students. I even have guilt about “using” my students — their love and smiling faces and Christmas excitement – to help myself feel better. I get angry at the parents who have not mentioned Newtown to me, and yet, I am afraid that if too many of them did, I would fall apart into a broken pile in front of them.

    The one and only thing that helps is knowing that other people are as rattled, as upset, as brokenhearted and terrified as I am. So, let’s be sad together. Let’s be angry together. Let’s be scared together. I don’t know what we DO with all this, but it feels less bad to not be alone in the not knowing.

  • 21. Dr. Maureen  |  December 17th, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    I’m right there with you. Avoiding coverage. I dip into the coverage just a little bit each day, but I have to function, so that is all I can take. I don’t know what else to do.

  • 22. Gaby  |  December 17th, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    It fills my thoughts any time my mind wanders, so I am constantly reloading twitter or facebook or my email, hoping for some brief distraction to keep my mind from those horrific thoughts. I can’t help thinking about those babies’ final moments. Women and children killed. People dying trying to save the lives of others. And I just try to shove it out of my mind as fast as I can.

    I’m avoiding news, too, but I feel like I shouldn’t be. That I owe the families? Or something. And like craftyashley, I’m struggling with parenting my little ones because I should be treasuring every moment, right?

    I had NPR on for just a few minutes as I pulled into my sons’ daycare today, and I heard one of the rabbis that is supporting Noah’s family, and he described Noah’s mother’s reaction to seeing her son’s body, and I sobbed. And then had the opportunity to get my boys from their daycare. Where they’re supposed to be safe. Just like those kids were supposed to be safe at school. There is just no real way for me to digest it.

  • 23. Hello Ladies  |  December 17th, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Jonna. I appreciate the honesty.

  • 24. Melissa R  |  December 18th, 2012 at 12:09 am

    I am a mother of two, and before that, I was a kindergarten teacher, so I’m going through this dealing with it as both of those people….thinking through scenarios where I’m the teacher and I wonder how I would have handled it, and then thinking through the horror of being one of these parents. I was on the verge of making myself go off the deep end.

    And then I had to remind myself of something almost more awful, which I suppose will sound like it could have sent me over the edge, but instead gave me perspective, I guess?

    This shooting was awful. AWFUL. Unthinkable. And because it was so unexpected, and happened in what’s supposed to be a “safe” place, on such a large scale with so many people impacted, and yes, that it happened to little children (which feels more awful, even though it would have been just as painful to those parents had the kids been 16 instead of 6), it is overwhelming.

    But then I had to remind myself that terrible, awful things happen every day. And we don’t know about them, unless they happen to us. This awful thing? We know about it because of the circumstances. But Friday morning before this happened – someone had already had something terribly awful happen to them that morning. And someone else had something awful happen just after it. Car accidents. Fires. Illness. Disease.

    Some how, realizing that awful things happen all the time helped me. Grounded me. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I realized that the human spirit is strong and resilient, and although things can happen where we think we just can’t go on, we do anyway. Maybe because I realized that bad things can happen any second, and I can’t fix any of it by worrying. I could worry myself into total despair yet that it won’t stop any of it from happening, so I best just accept that I need to appreciate every second, live life at its fullest for every moment, and move on.

    I’m not moving on, of course. I watch the news and cry. I read things online and sob. I think about the horror those parents are going through, wondering how on earth they are getting through this. I think of the “what if’s.” But then I pull myself away from it, and remember that there’s so little I can accomplish with the worry, but far more that I can do by saying a prayer, doing something positive, and then trying to get my focus onto something else.

    We’ll never forget this. But we will heal, and the hurt and worry and anguish will fade eventually.

  • 25. Ginger  |  December 18th, 2012 at 12:11 am

    I spent most of Friday feeling like I was going to puke. We had our office Christmas party at lunch, and only about 1/3 of us knew about it, but no one wanted to be the one to bear this news to the rest. And the food kept getting stuck in my throat, because I swear to God, I was only holding it together because I can’t lose my mind at work. I found myself almost choking on pumpkin cheesecake.

    This is the shit my anxiety is built on. I’ve spent the past few years imagining all the horrible, statistically unlikely ways that myself or my family could die. Planes falling from the air, and car crashes, and heart attacks, and head injuries falling down the stairs, and the building falling on us in an earthquake, and tsunamis and other crazy stuff. You know the one thing that never, ever, ever hit my mind? That some madman would walk into a kindergarten classroom and slaughter my kid…and now boom, there it is.

    I am gutted by this, and I feel like such an asshole, because this is not my tragedy, not really. But I am gutted by this. My imagination has gone to terrible, terrible, terrible details, filling in horror and grief and terror from the kids, and the ungodly horror of the families. My brain craves details on the one hand, because then I can’t just imagine what happened (turns out, I have a pretty damn good imagination about this), but at the same time, I can’t take it. I just can’t. I am fighting it, desperately, because that way lies madness, but it is like a rock in my stomach.

    I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to unload in your comment section, but I’ve not really talked to anyone about this. I don’t know how we move forward. I’m not afraid of sending J to preschool tomorrow (despite, fun fact, the fact that his school has floor to ceiling glass in his classroom, and it faces the parking lot!), but I am so utterly heartbroken that we live in a world where my kid is going to have to have lock down drills in addition to earthquake drills. Where someday, we’ll have a conversation about what to do if someone with a gun shows up, the way we would about what to do in a fire, an accident, or if he got lost. It all feels so fucking wrong.

    (God I’m sorry about going on and on).

  • 26. Katy  |  December 18th, 2012 at 12:41 am

    It was rough news, but I’m going to be completely honest here–because you gave us that courtesy–and say that I am VERY PURPOSEFULLY not thinking about the victims. Not that I don’t care, but I know that reading every detail or imagining their suffering won’t change things. It won’t bring those babies back. But it might send me over the deep end for an unspecified amount of time, and I’m not going there. I consider this my survival instinct kicking in and I’m going with it. If we think too hard and too long about the uncertainty of the Universe, what choice do we have but to go insane?

  • 27. Brooke @ 25 Days of Kindness  |  December 18th, 2012 at 1:02 am

    On Friday morning, I was at the rescue mission, spending a few minutes of my time trying to figure out how to do more for others, to spread kindness.

    And then I came home. And there was death and fear and panic and sadness. Horrible, horrible sadness. How little my good would count against something so tragic and horrible.

    My husband and I agreed not to discuss this in front of our 4 year old. He’s anxious as it is, and getting him to happily go to school has been a two year battle. I can’t undermine that in one story.

    I was doing ok, distanced myself from the event so that I could have some hope of dropping my son off this morning. For some reason though, I read more last night. And it was too much. And then my son told me on the way to school this morning, “Mommy, I don’t want to die. I don’t want anyone to die.” I don’t know if it was connected; I don’t know if he has any idea, but that was enough to plunge me into a dark space. My child shouldn’t be afraid to die when he goes to school.

    When our house burned down, it was a big deal in our community. 10 homes, a woman died. I felt like I was supposed to be consoling others, easing their fears as I dealt with my own grief. I hated it. This wasn’t their story. But now I’m on the other side, and this is about us too. We have to have a national conversation about safety in our schools. Statistically speaking, it probably won’t happen to us. But I’ve been on the wrong side of odds too many times before, and I want us to work to change this before it happens again. I am not holding my child thankful that it wasn’t him. I need it to stop happening. I need to believe that this world is a good and just and kind and loving place. I need to live in a world where my son doesn’t tell me that he doesn’t want to die on the way to school. That world just isn’t ok to me.

  • 28. Faith  |  December 18th, 2012 at 1:13 am

    Yep. What Katy said, and then some. I can’t sit and imagine the suffering children without my toddler looking at me concerned that I’m back in the dark place I visited for a few weeks after my son was born. Then she hands me a kleenex, as if to say “Get it together and play stickers with me already!”

    We have a life to live, and we have little control over what happens in it. That is both frustrating because we can’t guarantee safety and happiness, but also reassuring because there’s no point feeling guilty if the bad things haven’t happened to us yet.

    I think we move on by helping the survivors and doing what we can to make the experience a little easier for the victims and their families.

  • 29. JMH  |  December 18th, 2012 at 5:54 am

    This was well written. I am an elementary teacher, and this really hit close to home. I was shaken and upset by the shooting in Columbine, Aurora, etc…but this has DEVASTATED me. My son was sick all weekend, and I was glad I had to take yesterday off and not be at school on Monday. I still needed time to breathe…process..before facing my students. I keep thinking of the teacher who told all of her kids that she loved them so that would be the last thing they heard if they were targeted. She and her students survived. When I heard her interview, I broke down and sobbed. I could actually visualize being in that situation and ….wow.
    I put all of my faith in God, but the “why” is really making me struggle. I feel like my entire world has shifted and it will never be the same.

  • 30. Swistle  |  December 18th, 2012 at 5:57 am

    1. Tranquilizers.

    2. Reminding myself that for the ones who died, the horror stopped. It keeps happening in our minds, but the ones who died are completely done with it.

    3. Reminding myself that things equally or significantly more horrifying happen constantly all over the world. I realize this seems like it should make the feeling much worse.

    4. Trying not to think about it. Not reading about it, not talking about it, avoiding news, yanking my eyes away from social media discussing it.

    5. Remembering that in previous situations of undigestible horror, the everyday horror experience of it eventually faded into something that only periodically horrifies me. Assuming that the same will happen in this case.

  • 31. el-e-e  |  December 18th, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Thanks for hosting such a good conversation about it, Jonna, and thanks to all your commenters. It’s the same for all of us. We don’t know where to go or what to do next, and the awful parts are just in our peripheral vision, all the time. I’m mostly avoiding the news, haven’t seen one photo of one victim, because I can’t manage that. I ache for those parents; I feel guilt and gratefulness and fear all at the same time. I don’t think we’ll ever get an answer about why this had to happen.

  • 32. Christy M  |  December 18th, 2012 at 9:13 am

    NPR had a psychologist on yesterday morning and he said even he was going to dark places this weekend thinking about what happened. But he said something that kind of rang true to me. He said that there are things people fear and things people dread. When you fear something (getting cancer, car/airplane crashes, etc), you can accept that the odds are in your favor and that there’s not much you can do anyway. And you carry on. When you dread something (Newtown, Aurora, 9/11, some natural disasters), you can’t get past the fear, no matter the odds, and you ruminate endlessly over what can be done (nothing, usually) or what you would do.

    Anyway, the dread thing struck me pretty hard and I’ve caught myself dreading this situation and tried to talk myself down. Because I have a three year old who doesn’t understand, thank God. And his school is really one of the safest places for him.

    It also helps immensely that I don’t have cable or internet at my new house yet, so I’ve been in a bubble. And wine helps too.

  • 33. Summer Nicklasson  |  December 18th, 2012 at 9:17 am

    It is terribly hard to navigate through this horror. Every morning I’ve been waking up crying. I dropped off my daughter at school, found the teacher, and hugged her while we both cried, hard. WTF is happening, I just don’t know. This weekend I immersed myself in some near death books, for some reason I was drawn to them (also I’m a hospice nurse and have a shit ton of them) and the message that keeps resonating with me is this: Death isn’t hard. Living is hard.
    For some reason that makes it feel LESS like a hot poker in my heart, a small sort of salve for something you can’t even wrap your head around.
    There are so many layers to this tragedy. Right now I think we are doing our best to deal with the shock.

  • 34. Angela (@Aferg22)  |  December 18th, 2012 at 10:01 am

    I have a six year old, so I can imagine what it would feel like to have him ripped away from me. This is why I have been crying off and on since I heard about what happened. I am crying now, reading through the comments and writing my own. He has no idea what happened, and I hope he doesn’t find out anytime soon. Even though it is so upsetting, I can’t stop reading, listening, and watching all the coverage. What struck me last night, was the families who had the funerals yesterday- it just seemed so soon. I don’t know if I am going to be able to explain this very well, but it seems like right after something terrible happens, you are occupied with grieving, but also with taking care of things, like organizing the funeral and the visitation. People are surrounding you, bringing you food and paying respects. It helps keep your mind off of why you are doing these activities. But now that it is over, you are just supposed to LIVE in what is now your new normal? I guess I just don’t want those families to have to face life without their loved one just yet.

  • 35. Sarah  |  December 18th, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Perfect. I don’t get rocked either, but this has shaken me to the core.

    The only shining light for me so far is I am even more in love with our little elementary school. They have handle the whole situation really well.

    And every time I have gotten annoyed with the kids since Friday, I have stopped myself and recognized I’d love to be annoyed by them for the rest of my life.

    Hang in there.

  • 36. g.  |  December 18th, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Thank you for writing this. “I don’t even know who to pray to or what for, because I’m so angry that this was allowed to happen” is exactly how I feel about so many things right now, but I hadn’t been able to put it into words… it helps just a little bit that you did.

  • 37. Floundering « Ka-Ka&hellip  |  December 18th, 2012 at 11:56 am

    […] with a line about children laughing. I’ve been at a loss for what to say, what to do. I think Jonna summed up exactly how I’m feeling right now. Especially the part about how being a parent […]

  • 38. Kaitlin  |  December 18th, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Well said. When Columbine happened, it was so awful but so far removed and random- nothing like it had ever happened before and I think people assumed it wouldn’t happen again. And then it happened again, and again, and again. And even so, it still seemed far removed although heartbreaking and scary. And then on December 5th, 2007, a former co-worker – a friend – was killed in the Von Maur shooting. And now I can’t pretend that this kind of evil only happens on the news, and only to other people. And then to have it happen at an elementary school… Ugh- I still can’t process it.

  • 39. Kristabella  |  December 18th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Same here. I kind of live in denial too. I don’t have kids, so it is “easier” to be in denial. Until someone I have met lost her nephew. And I was like “holy shit, I have nieces and nephews. And friends with kids whom I love.” And then I flailed a lot. And drank and changed the channel.

    And then someone today brought up about what is our plan of action here at our office. Because our security people are not armed. And where I work, there is the possibility of A LOT of disgruntled folks. And now I’m back to flailing because HOLY SHIT, I would not know what to do.

    So, yeah. Thank you for writing this.

  • 40. Lauren E. E.  |  December 18th, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I can’t digest this either. I don’t want to. I want to throw it up as well, to be rid of these new fears and this sadness invading the cells of my body. I’m trying to build a wall around my soul, my heart, my feelings, everything that I want to protect from the fear of this happening to my kids. I’ve been trying to avoid the news as much as possible, but once you know what happened, even just the numbers of the dead, there’s no letting that go from your heart and your imagination. I know we get through these things, since we’ve gotten through them before, but everything seems so fragile and vulnerable right now. Until you wrote a Tweet about how terrible people were acting this weekend, I didn’t even think about how that was my fear seeping out. I was a cranky, angry person this weekend. How did I not make the connection? The interesting way that my brain is trying to “solve this problem” (ha, right) is that now I’m actually contemplating having a third kid, right after I commented on your recent post about how we’re 100% done. I grew up with a number of families who lost one of their two children, and this event brought all that up again. I’ve always contemplated having a third because of the idea of a sibling being alone if anything tragic happened. I know this is ridiculous. There will be an unfilled, painful hole if you lose a child and no number or children will make that easier. And yet, here I am thinking about it again. As irrational as it is. Thanks for giving us a space to try to process this. As impossible as it seems.

  • 41. J  |  December 18th, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Well, this is truly gruesome but shootings like this, even with the horrific run this year, are but a small fraction of the number of individuals killed by guns each year in the US, unfortunately. The Economist has been writing about this for years. For example:

    “In 2008-2009, there were 39 fatal injuries from crimes involving firearms in England and Wales, with a population about one sixth the size of America’s. In America, there were 12,000 gun-related homicides in 2008.”

    That’s 33 per day, more than Newtown, every single day of the year, year after year after year after year. Thousands of broken hearts every year.

    It makes me feel better to try channeling grief into action: writing letters to lawmakers is a great start. Bombard the NRA or gun manufacturers with angry mail, join a protest, donate to the to the Brady campaign … a few thoughts.

  • 42. KeraLinnea  |  December 18th, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    I have no idea what to do with this. None. I tried to write about it, but couldn’t. There’s a dozen first lines in my post folder, and none of them are true to what I’m really thinking/feeling–it’s like I can’t access those files…there’s just too much damage there.
    I found myself lashing out in odd ways–I posted a fairly nasty comment on a facebook friend’s status, and then insulted anyone that posted to criticize me or defend her. It was a Christian friend, and the post seemed mean-spirited toward poor people– “poor people are poor because they don’t work hard like me” sort of thing. And I tore into her, using words like “so-called Christian,” just nasty in tone. And I realized, I would have called her out on something like that no matter what, but I wouldn’t have been rude about it, and if I got called out for my opinion, I would have ignored it, not fanned their anger. The reason I was lashing out so angrily was because I was so heartily sick of all the “God will hold you in his arms” posts and all the Jesus snuggling little children pictures because seriously? Fuck that. You can’t give credit to the Almighty for comforting the afflicted when HE ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN. Blah, blah free will, evil in the world, yadda yadda–either God can’t stop it or he won’t, and either way, fuck him. Sorry. I’m really not trying to upset anyone, but that’s the place I went to seeing all those posts, and then to see a “Christian” say something that I’m pretty sure would get her one Jesus-sized bitchslap if he’d heard it, I just had to hit back. This is clearly not the right way to process something like this, but fuck if I know what the right way is.
    Sorry, Jonna, for taking over your comments. And thank you for the unedited version of your thoughts. That couldn’t have been easy.

  • 43. Trying to Understand &laq&hellip  |  December 18th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    […] not about me, but I am, as Jonniker said, flailing. It is too close to home. I am too helpless. I don’t know how to be thankful for my […]

  • 44. Joe  |  December 18th, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Thank you for this post. You’ve articulated perfectly what I’ve been thinking but am unable to express. And I don’t know what the answer is.

  • 45. Issa  |  December 18th, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    I am anxious and not sleeping. Prone to random weeping. Yet, I too don’t know how to deal. I think Adam’s word is right. Digest. I don’t know how either.

    When something like this happens, I feel like my world gets a bit smaller and smaller. As a teen, I used to be able to put things off and say, oh well it happens there, to them. Who exactly I thought the them were, I’m not sure. When my cousin got lucky and was late and in the subway on 9/11 and he lost all his employees, I no longer could say them. It just became too real. This one, while smaller is even worse. Them is small children. Children, just like mine. In a small-ish community, just like mine. It’s horrifying.

    To deal, because man I need to try, I have been listening to Christmas music and avoiding the news. Watching holiday movies each night and not watching any real TV. Squishing my kids as much as they’ll let me. Trying to let the small silly stuff go. Moving on isn’t the right words, but maybe moving forward is? All we can do is keep moving forward.

  • 46. SwingCheese  |  December 18th, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    My first reaction was abject anger. Anger at the media, for playing this on a constant loop, for manipulating our emotions under the guise of “news”. After Friday, this was no longer breaking news. We, the nation, did not need the continual follow-up. The Newtown community did not need cameras shoved in their faces. They need to be allowed to grieve, privately and with each other, and not in front of the world. The way the media is behaving is appalling.

    Then I read about the teacher (a survivor) who barricaded her students in a closet, told them that the good guys were coming, and told them that she loved them. And then I sobbed. Because I’m a teacher. Because I have a young child. Because its scary and sometimes, it sucks to be an adult.

    But here is what I keep repeating to myself: we cannot make the world a no-risk place for our children. We cannot, and frankly, we shouldn’t try to. Children need to live their lives, have experiences and not be hamstringed by the fears of their parents. If this makes you angry, speak out. I’ve been speaking out about how I believe we need to address this issue with responsibility and common sense. How we need to take responsibility for our society, in which our children are exposed to violence and death an alarming amount. How we need to take a stand when we see or hear something we disagree with – in my fit if anger, I wrote several angry emails to the main news networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX) as well as to specific shows (GMA and Today) about their behavior. Will these be read? Who knows? But I felt like I was doing something and it has spurred me on to do more. I feel that if more people speak out, we have a real opportunity to lead a societal change.

  • 47. TheAvasmommy  |  December 18th, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    This. So very much this.

    Just like Issa, I keep avoiding news. Trying to just live. And I close my eyes and my mind conjures up the most horrible things imaginable. I keep seeing my own daughter’s face in the crowd.

    This isn’t some once in a lifetime event happening halfway across the globe. We identify with it. We are conditioned to be horrified by acts against kids and this was about the worst act in our lifetime.

    I don’t know how to deal. I don’t know how to stop crying every 15 minutes. To be honest I’m not even trying. In time, maybe we’ll find a way to get through it. Right now I guess the only answer is to keep feeling and hope that something better is on the other side of all the tears.

    A client said something to me yesterday that has been ringing in my ears. “You don’t get over…you get through”.

    Maybe that’s what we focus on. Getting through.

  • 48. HereWeGoAJen  |  December 18th, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    The whole thing just sucks. And so does this comment but it’s what I’ve got right now. So internet love sent to you right now.

  • 49. Hold me together « &hellip  |  December 18th, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    […] not eloquent. This is bare naked. From my head and heart to my keyboard to your screen, inspired by Jonniker’s messy post about her own reactions to Newtown. It feels more okay to be messy together than neat and tidy and […]

  • 50. kdiddy  |  December 19th, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Totally feeling the same way. Like, yeah I’m grateful I guess that my kid is okay but it feels like a gross reaction. Grateful to who? To what? As often as those parents are screaming why my child I’m struck by the thought why not my child? Is this luck? Am I supposed to feel LUCKY? What the fuck? I’m dumbfounded at how thoroughly horrible this has made me feel.

  • 51. sarah  |  December 19th, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    I work in a school (multiple, actually) as a psychologist, and my first week on the job after grad school, there was a shooting here. No one was killed, the shooter’s gun jammed and our school resource officer & driver’s ed teacher were able to bring him down. The shooter killed his father, made a video, sent it to the newspaper, and then came to the school. I was here when it happened, and oblivious.
    Sometimes I am *not ok.*
    Most times I am. I keep functioning because I use the CBT techniques that you describe (especially in lockdown drills, or real lockdowns when they occur) and because I have to. I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have a kid to come home to, and a husband, and scads of well-meaning sometimes annoying family to be loved/annoyed by.
    But I also think on a smaller scale than you do? I’m not overcome or moved to do something for the country or the world, just the kids in front of me. I’ll advocate like HELL for these kids, who need support that they aren’t getting. However, I also recognize my boundaries and what I can/can’t do. i worked on a case when I was in grad school that wrecked me. I called my professors immediately, and they talked me through it enough for me to figure out that I cannot adopt all these kids, but I can do a damn good job at my job. So I do.
    Back to work, now.

  • 52. there would be no childli&hellip  |  December 19th, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    […] it’s not mine. I don’t have to live the rest of my life with it as part of my story. Jonna did an excellent job articulating a lot of […]

  • 53. Alexa  |  December 19th, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    I just wrote an eerily similar post, and yeah. I am entirely devoid of wisdom and understanding. The world feels incomprehensible to me right now.

  • 54. shin ae  |  December 19th, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Reading this made me want to sweep you up into a big, weird, possibly unwelcome hug. I appreciate you so much.

    (1) I have struggled with anxiety. A little over a year ago, it became difficult for me to leave the house, and even to be in the house. Life just became insurmountably difficult no matter where. Intolerable. I am a Christian. It was through learning more about who God is to me, who I am to God, and how to act on all that (however imperfectly) that my mind has gradually been healing. It has been a process.

    (2) When my friend’s daughter died, I cried every single day, I think, for about a year and a half. I didn’t tell anyone. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone. I STILL wouldn’t tell anyone who is a mutual friend. It just didn’t feel like I had a right to be so upset–it wasn’t MY tragedy. But I WAS that upset. That event changed me forever. My grandmother felt that my level of grief was more than was appropriate for the situation: it wasn’t my child, she wasn’t my best friend, I don’t know. I felt that it was completely appropriate, because it was such a shock and so terribly, awfully sad. And, our babies were close to the same age, so YES with the intimate knowledge of a child that age. Anyway. My point is that yes, it’s hard because sometimes things ARE that upsetting, but it seems somehow untoward to be so affected from your place on the outside, and I don’t know how to be…acceptable. Not a weeping fool.

    (3) About this situation, I am dazed and foggy and sad, and I think it’s just fine. I think it’s a fine and appropriate response. I am not anxious, but I am very much grieving because I want to and I can’t help it anyway.

    (4) I am not watching the news, though.

  • 55. Buried in the Sand «&hellip  |  December 20th, 2012 at 8:58 am

    […] such great things about it already (if that’s even an appropriate word, “great.”) Jonniker wrote a post that pretty much says everything I feel, anyway, so you should go read that.  Last […]

  • 56. Sarah  |  December 20th, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Oh my gosh, thank you thank you thank you for posting this. I don’t even live in the US and this has troubled me to the absolute core. The first 72 hours after it happened I literally just kept thinking “where can in the world can I take my kids and hide from society and never have to know that these evils are happening?” It felt like the entire world has changed in just a matter of minutes. I hate that feeling so much.

    There isn’t much I can contribute for coping tools because I certainly don’t feel like I am. But I kind of agree with what Swistle said- I don’t think any of us will EVER EVER forget this story, but it is worth reminding ourselves that even in a few months it won’t be so raw and in a few years it will be even less. We will never forget, but there will come a point when it isn’t all consuming either.
    That said, I am also avoiding the news because the more I know, the more upset I get. And in order to still function as a person and as a mother, I just can’t know details right now. It’s helping a little.

  • 57. Suebob  |  December 21st, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    It helps me to believe in both a loving God and a world that He/It/Whatever doesn’t interfere in. I have to believe that we are put here to do what we will, and the only thing God will change for us is our thoughts, and only if we ask.

    So this place is our home, not God’s. And that gives me a great sense of responsibility to take care of as much of it as I can, to make my part as clean and happy and loving as possible. Other people may try to screw it up. And some of them will succeed. But it isn’t a God-problem.

    I get the comfort of also believing that those kids are in a place of perfect peace beyond this world.

    That’s how I make it work in my brain.

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  • 59. Blythe  |  December 30th, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    It’s two weeks later and I sort of thought I had moved through a lot of the shock, and then I watched a movie last night with a workplace shooting scene and I started to feel panicky again, like there isn’t a safe place in the world.

    I am trying not to make this into *my* tragedy, but as you said, that’s hard. I have a five-year-old son. I work at a school. I was a witness to a school shooting at my high school when I was a sophomore, more than 25 years ago. And most of us have something like these touchpoints that draw us straight into the story. But I guess I would rather feel sad and afraid than feel like this is normal.

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  • 60. sara  |  January 2nd, 2013 at 10:12 am

    For some reason, this post did not show up in my reader. So, I have been trying to deal with this for weeks now and can’t. I spit out a lame version of my thoughts and feelings the other day, so it was helpful to read your post today and others comments. I don’t think that any of us can properly digest it. I can’t imagine what the first responders are dealing with. As someone else said, I am afraid this violence is becoming normal.

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