“Happily, ever after” is what children dream about when they are young and innocent. They find comfort in believing that if one makes good choices, has faith, and works hard, life will have few detours.
Then the unthinkable happens: a mass shooting. Most people are not hard-wired to make sense of the raw evil displayed in such an event. The “sense” of it is beyond conception for most. Those struck by it display anger, righteous indignation, hatred, and shock. What of the survivors, those who experienced the terror and will try to go on with life?
The recent tragic killing of 19 young students and 2 teachers will result in these survivors striving to live with the nightmare. Ten-year-old, Jayden Perez when asked if he will return to school replied, “No, because after what happened, I don’t want to. I don’t want anything to do with another school shooting...and I know it might happen again.”[i] It is “unthinkable” to him to return to normal school life.
11-year-old Miah smeared the blood of her friend all over her body to convince the shooter that she was dead also. Miah did the unthinkable to survive. Her sweet innocence was destroyed in moments.[ii] Will Miah and Jayden be two survivors of mass shootings who will suffer long-term mental challenges because of the incident?
“The National Center for PTSD estimates that 28 percent of people who have witnessed a mass shooting develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and about a third develop acute stress disorder.”[iii] Survivors have unique mental health challenges returning to their new normal.
The horror of the mass shooting is that it is unexpected and without warning. A student doesn’t go to school wondering if there will be a shooting at school today. When people attend a concert or a movie, entertainment is on their minds, not a shooting. It shakes the core of the person’s feeling of safety in their everyday world. The shock of the shooting vibrates, not only through the survivor but the neighborhood, other survivors, witnesses, the community, and on and on.
What happens when the news media move away from the most recent mass shooting? When the survivor muddles through the memory, trying to make sense of it?
Psychologists report that successful healing for victims is largely based on their support system. When the Columbine High School shooting occurred, pastors and youth pastors stepped up to help. They were “on scene” as soon as they got word of the shooting. They knew, even though they had never experienced such a shooting before, that they needed to be there to support survivors, parents and rescue personnel. This is the mind of Christ in action.
Jesus said in Luke 5:31-32 “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.” Jesus would want Christians to be involved. Support those who are in need as survivors of all kinds of trauma. Pray for the families of those who were lost in the tragedy. Volunteer in youth organizations bringing Christ to those who are wounded.
Offer Christ, in the center of the unthinkable.
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