School Shootings and Tragic Events


BY: Diane Snyder Cowan, MA, MT-BC, CHPCA

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

It seems as if every few months there is a national tragedy where innocent lives have been abruptly taken. Schools, movie theatres, and malls have all been targets of unimaginable events. How do we reassure our children when their world view is shattered? How do we reassure ourselves?

Regardless of where we are in the world, tragic events impact all of us. Grieving over a recent death can make a person more fragile or vulnerable when a national tragedy occurs. It may really shake an individual or a family to the core. Some folks may feel resentful that their personal loss is regarded as less important and that all the attention is elsewhere. Some may even feel apologetic for their personal loss. Sometimes news of a tragedy can make an old sadness feel new. We need to recognize that all of our grief is valid.

What can we do as a family?
  • Allow yourself and your children to question why such a horrible thing would happen. It's okay not to have all the answers. Reassure your children and yourself that this was an isolated event. While it seems to be happening with increasing frequency, it is fortunately rare.
  • Find out about your school's safety plan and emphasize within your family that the school and community is doing everything that can be done to keep everyone safe.
  • Be available to listen to your children. Allow children to lead the conversation about the tragedy and answer questions honestly in a language they can understand. Be a model for appropriate, healthy expressions of grief and sadness. Children learn from what adults say and do and what they don't say and don't do.
  • Consider limiting media exposure and try not to have detailed conversations with other adults about the tragedy while children are within earshot.
  • Think about doing an enjoyable activity with your family. This is a way to redirect attention and let them know that it is still okay to have fun. Spring is around the corner. You may want to take a walk outdoors and locate the first signs of spring – a robin, a crocus, or new buds on the trees. You may want to design or plan a memory garden in honor of your loved one. Or you may want to just kick back and watch a favorite movie.


When tragic events like the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, happen, it's a go​od time to reconnect with family and friends. While it may be difficult, consider all your blessings and look forward with hope for the healing of the communities which have been affected.

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