NEWBERRY — The grieving process for everyone takes different forms and after the tragic elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. certainly causes people to react in different ways.
The shooting took 26 lives - 20 children and six adults - and many people may be wondering why and how.
Whether in Newtown, Conn. or Newberry, there are resources available for talking with children as well as adults about such a tragedy like a school shooting.
The School District of Newberry County works with the Sheriff’s Department to ensure safety of those behind the school’s walls and practices lock down drills once a month.
They also have school resource officers at the middle and high schools.
On another note, licensed social worker Christie Whitaker from Newberry offers some tips on dealing with a tragedy that results in deaths such as a school shooting.
Whitaker does mention that the Connecticut shooting is a very in-depth subject and her points just brush the tips offered.
“We all feel the emotional impact from the loss of precious lives. This event cuts to the very core of our being because so many children were victims. As parents and as teachers - those other parents - we try to formulate answers to the questions that may come our way,” said Whitaker.
“We are all concerned for the well being of our children and question what impact this incident, as well as others, will have on them. What do you say to children who are grieving or experience tragic events? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a simple, easy answer? Unfortunately I have not found one but may I suggest a few key points that may help with supporting our children,” she adds.
Honesty is always an important point to remember in discussing death with children, she begins.
Other points Whitaker mentions are:
• Do not get into answering with the many cliches that we hear so often, cliches such as “God needed another angel or they are sleeping.”
“These are not the answer and often lead to more confusion for children as they process the events in their own mind. Be supportive and reassuring to children. That will do more to help them through the tough times,” said Whitaker.
• Children can teach you more if you just listen. The child’s perspective may be a challenge, but it’s important to ask and then listen.
“Get at their understanding of what they think happened by asking things like ‘What did you hear? What do you think?’” They may be afraid or they may just be curious,” said Whitaker.
• If children are scared, ask what their fear is. Children’s logic is different and it’s important to correct any misconceptions and offer assurance, she point out.
• Do not make the children feel as if their feelings are wrong.
“Never make anyone, especially a child, feel bad about being scared,” said Whitaker.
• Be creative with having interactive discussions with children. Help a child form thoughts rather than leaving them to their imaginations, Whitaker points out.
“Children are resilient but they as well as adults do need care, love, empathy, understanding, gentleness and presence through the tough times of life,” said Whitaker.
Whitaker also offers some resources for parents or guardians to help them deal with the grieving process:
Dr. Earl Grollman and Fred Rogers are among a couple of authors who have written books and/or brochures that will help, Whitaker points out.
She also recommends a book, “How to Say It to your Child When Bad Things Happen” by Dr. Paul Coleman. This offers tips to find out the best ways to talk to kids about disturbing images and events.
There is also a website parents or guardians may visit: Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event at www.store.samhsa.gov/shin/content//SMA12-4732/SMA12-4732.pdf.
Other resources are also available through the National Parent-Teacher Association organization which may be found at the website, www.pta.org/schoolviolence.
They have parent guides dealing with the aftermath of a shooting and violence prevention.
On a local level, people may also visit the Newberry Behavioral Health Services or Westview Behavioral Health Services with questions and concerns regarding issues along grieving or other mental health assistance.