When Courtney Zehnder, our Social Media Coordinator and my son’s S.O., asked if I wanted to blog about the massacre that occurred this morning, my first reaction was ‘I have nothing new to say.’ What can you say about a senseless tragedy that hasn’t already been said more eloquently by others?
But then I listened to the news on the way home – and had a sudden, vivid picture of children aged 5 to 10. And a crystal clear picture of my own daughter Jesse, who died another senseless death four days before her tenth birthday, in 2004. At first it seems the circumstances of Jesse’s death couldn’t be less similar to the deaths of those little angels in Sandy Hook school. She died of Stevens Johnson Syndrome, a horrible drug reaction. But the reaction happened because Pfizer hid negative information about the medications, including about how they interact, from doctors and pharmacists in order to protect profits. And, as I’ll discuss later, these kids died because of corporate greed as well – the greed of gun manufacturers.
But first – I have some things to say to the parents of the children who were murdered, and to all parents who have recently lost a child. You will never ‘get over it,’ you will never be the same – but you are alive and will live through this, in all likelihood, whether you want to or not. And some things ease the pain better than others. You can’t do it alone. GET SOME HELP WITH THIS. It doesn’t matter what kind of help. It can be close friends or family you can talk to and with whom you don’t have to pretend to feel better than you do. It can be a therapist, it can be a bereavement counselor or a support group, a community or spiritual group, it can be online forums. Just don’t go through this alone, and don’t try to be ‘tough.’
And get help for the other members of your family. The loss of a child can destroy an entire family – it nearly did so with mine. You may not have it in you to care well for other children or close family. So get some help with that too. Your kids may hide their troubles from you, not wanting to make you feel worse, believing your pain greater than theirs. Make sure they have someone to talk to, as well, and people who have more strength than you to help out.
Now to the gun issue. In the next days and weeks to come, we’re all going to hear a lot of psychobabble – about the mental state of the shooter, about the family dynamics, about why the United States produces these kind of mass killers with such depressing regularity. You’ll hear armchair shrinks speculate on how the shooter was ‘produced’ and analyze the workings of his psyche. And you’ll probably hear a lot of mental health lobbyists proclaim the need for more mental health services in the U.S.
It’s all B.S. First of all, we don’t have the slightest idea how people like Adam Lanza, the killer, come to be, and we are clueless about how to predict who will do things like this. We’ve made some great strides in neuroscience, but it will be eons before we understand the workings of this kind of mind. And much as I believe that we DO need more mental health services in the U.S. as well as a change in attitudes about treatment – 2 out of 3 depressed people get no help- that has little or nothing to do with these kind of killing sprees.
Because the U.S. DOESN’T have a culture that produces more homicidal maniacs than other places, and we don’t have more untreated ones. We just arm ours with assault weapons.
And the problem with the psychobabble is it deflects attention from the real issue: gun control. Until we get serious about gun control, these tragedies will continue to happen, and no number of mental health centers will prevent that. We agree with Mayor Bloomberg and the Mayors Against Guns group. Now is the time to get serious about gun laws.
I don’t want to talk about what childhood trauma causes someone to snap like the killers at Sandy Hook, Columbine, Tucson, Virginia Tech. I want to have this tragedy to trigger a national conversation – and national action – about gun laws. Anything less does not serve and honor the memories of the victims.