In the aftermath of the recent tragedies in El Paso and Dayton, it’s nearly impossible to know what to do or say. These acts of gun violence bring up all sorts of painful emotions – grief, sadness, anger, and fear.
As the daughter of a pastor, I was taught the importance of weeping with those who weep and mourning with those who mourn. Jewish tradition teaches the compassionate practice of mourning alongside those who sit Shiva. It seems fitting, in times like these, to make space in our lives to enter into the suffering of those who grieve.
And yet, I sense an almost helpless feeling among many who are asking, “What more can I do?”
The answer to that question will likely be different for each of us, depending on our resources and temperaments. For some, it might look like activism. For others, a response might come in the form of giving – donating gifts of time, money, or blood. Artists and musicians might respond by creating beauty to offset the violence and ugliness. Others might move toward reaching out to mentor or befriend a troubled young person.
For psychotherapists and other health professionals, our work becomes even more crucial in times like these. Those who are on the front lines in El Paso and Dayton face a daunting task in supporting survivors and families of those whose lives were cut down.
I’ve often said that psychotherapists and health professionals do some of the most important work on the planet. In a very real sense, we are merchants of hope. We play a crucial role in helping clients cling to the hope that trauma won’t have to define their lives.
We know that witnessing and experiencing physical and emotional trauma from gun violence can create deep wounds – ones that won’t heal lightly. So we applaud you for the important work you’ll be doing in providing support over the long haul for people whose lives changed in an instant.
Long after the headlines fade, people in these communities will continue to need medical, legal, financial, and emotional support. Thank you for the important work you’re doing.
Even for those who are far removed from these communities, these kinds of events can trigger all sorts of reactions to previous experiences of violence. So, there are many people close to us who may need additional support in processing a previous trauma.
One more thing – and this is something else my father taught me. Even in troubled times like these, three things abide: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
So, keep loving those who are close to you. Love your neighbor. Love the stranger. Though our hearts are broken, we can make this world a more loving, compassionate place.
Now I’d like to hear from you. What are your thoughts about how we can foster greater compassion in our communities and in our world? Please leave a comment below.
For more resources for helping clients heal from a traumatic experience, check out this blog post.