when children are murdered

when children are killed everything feels wrong in the world. and it is.

twice this week, irrational acts of violence have taken lives in public places where murder should never happen. not that murder should happen anywhere at all. in both cases, children were impacted. some by bullets that took life or left scars and some by visions and experiences creating invisible scars deep inside the soul. 

it is not only the children at clackamas town center in oregon or at sandy hook elementary school in connecticut that will have to struggle to come to terms with what they have witnessed. because of a constantly connected population, it is nearly every child today who will see images and over-hear conversations that will likely trouble them and lead to disorienting questions about why such tragedies occur.

for this reason, and so many others, i beg of you to have self control when “consuming” the media. both today and in the future. both when you are alone and when you are with others. especially children. seriously.

some will say that staying in near constant touch with a trauma and it’s unfolding details helps people gain “mastery” over situations that are frightening and out of ones’ control. still others will offer that a deep sense of empathy can result from taking in the immensity and pain of a trauma by flooding onesself with visual and written accounts of the event. i’m not sure i support either claim.

i find that staring at a screen, gobbling up gory details, past the point where the basic facts are given typically leads people to feel powerless, paralyzed, angry, and scared. none of these responses help ones own internal sense of stability nor the internal worlds of those around them. passive consumption does nothing.

active processing, however, helps. talking about what has happened, in appropriate ways with appropriate people, gets it out of our heads and into a space where we can share the burden. answering the questions that children have with just what they’ve asked for (no more or less) makes them feel empowered to ask about that which unnerves them without the secondary trauma of being given information they aren’t ready for. being open to wondering with yourself, with God, and with others about why pain exists and how you, as someone outside the trauma, might be able to help soothe the hurt that exists in the world. mr. rogers once said, “whatever is mentionable is manageable.” if you are paralyzed with fear (or rage or sadness) you are not likely to “mention” this in ways that it can be worked with and through. the children and more vulnerable people in your life will see this. you and your entire community need to be able to mention that which is upsetting (in appropriate ways) and then move to active ways of working through.

talk about what’s bothering you, ask others what is bothering them, listen, draw a picture, run as fast as you can around the block, take some deep breaths, pray, write a letter to someone you know who has faced a loss in the recent past and who could use you reaching out to them, hammer some nails, jump some rope, pound some clay, cry, yell, and then...sing, hug someone, tell someone they matter to you, give your lunch to the homeless guy you passed on the way to the restaurant, go give blood, keep breathing, keep praying, keep talking. just, whatever you do, don’t just sit reading/watching the news paralyzed by the tragedy. that is no way to to live and certainly no way to honor the loss of life you are reading about.

as a person who has lost loved ones (including children) to murder i will tell you, the press wants the story. traumatized witnesses and communities want details in order to make sense of what has occurred. everyone else buzzes with anxious sadness that is palpable. just look at how social media has “lit up” today. 

when children are murdered...when anyone is murdered...they don’t need to be remembered by their deaths. their family members and loved ones don’t want the trauma surrounding their loss to be what is held on to. death by murder is such an ugly reality to try to wrap ones head around. so...today...right now...get the smallest amount of information you need then get moving. loving. living. empathically. lovingly. in ways that honor the lives of those whose lives were cut short.


  1. Thank you so much for this, Doreen. As one who usually ignores ALL news media, I have struggled to respond to the CT shooting. For the first time I felt that desire (spurred by fear) to turn on the TV and know more. Your article spoke to the other desire: to protect myself from the "story" and work through, not be paralyzed by. Thank you for the encouragement.

  2. I appreciate this, Doreen. Very wise.