“Looking for the Helpers”
Once again we must reflect on how best to help, and find comfort, during trying times. Yet another tragic headline began our day following the bombing at a concert in Manchester, England. It is reported that over 20 fatalities (many of them children) and more than 50 injuries resulted from this unfathomable attack. In the face of tragedy like this, especially where innocent loved ones have died, what do we tell ourselves and our children that will offer any solace?
It seems that in recent years we are more frequently faced with frightening events than ever before. That our communities and our families are faced with increased threats to health and well being. On any given day, the news headlines ring out dangers, catastrophe and an ever increasing anxiety about our safety. More frequently we are forced into conversation about how to speak with children about the more difficult aspects of life. (link to “Talking to children about Loss or Crisis” article?)
Without question, our hearts are with the families of these victims and also with the communities impacted by this senseless violence. Even when tragedy takes place in far-away locations, we can all relate personally to grief and are certainly impacted by the loss of life. Whether smaller in scale or an event of this magnitude, all death is significant, personal and has the potential to trigger major emotions. This tragedy seems even more significant in its targeting of young children. While emergency support is being offered at many levels, and good people are coming to the aid of those impacted, there are unfortunately no clear answers that will provide absolute comfort. It is my expectation, however, that given time, compassion, camaraderie, and connection to each other, we will weather this tragedy as well. But we need to start with calm and compassion.
So what can we do to reassure our children today? We can be available, consistent and kind. We can offer children honesty and the empowerment that comes from knowledge. We can be patient in our conversations, and take the time necessary to fully explore a child’s thoughts, feelings and needs. Discussion of this tragedy cannot be avoided and there will be future need to continue the conversation. Talk openly about the events of the day. Keep the conversation ongoing, since not all answers will be available at once. Where there are specific concerns for safety, talk about making a plan for responding to dangers in schools, home and public places. We cannot promise that life has no dangers but we can provide some reassurance by listening to children’s fears and planning ahead.
I reflect on some of the words of Fred Rogers, that gave me and countless others comfort during our own childhoods…when faced with scary times and frightening events “look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” I’d like to believe that tragedy brings out the best in us. When we come together to face difficulty we find the real resource that children and families need. Connection, support and the transformative strength of community.
The Children’s Bereavement Center offer FREE Peer Support Groups for children, their families, and adults after a death. Groups are available in both Dade and Broward County.
Peter Willig, LMFT, FT
Children’s Bereavement Center
Peter Willig is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Director for the CBC. He has been involved with the CBC since their inception and engages in Grief education and community outreach. He is also on the Board of Directors for the National Alliance for Grieving Children.