I have been intentionally quiet on this blog in the weeks since the Sandy Hook shooting, unable to have clarity about my thoughts, beliefs and feelings, overwhelmed by sadness; I struggle to integrate and make sense of such horrible violence and loss of innocence. I live and work not far from Sandy Hook and it has felt as though it happened in my own back yard. It is an unusual time for counselors in Connecticut as we both experience the grief of this tragedy while bearing witness to the pain of our clients; it is a shared journey of recovery.
This shared experience isn’t one we are trained to address in graduate school. The grief experienced by anyone directly impacted is likely to be complicated and traumatic. Thus, trauma-informed training and expertise must be a part of ones clinical repertoire to competently treat Sandy Hook survivors, families, emergency responders or anyone with a trauma history. Self-care and supervision are vital to counselors engaging in the intensity of this work.
Newtown and its surrounding towns were stressed communities prior to the shootings. In the previous 14 months we experienced two hurricanes and major snowstorms following them. There were lengthy power outages and extensive damages. It is also an area impacted by the 9-11 terrorist attacks as many Fairfield county residents are/were employed in Manhattan. These factors must be addressed by counselors as a part of trauma informed assessment and treatment.
“We are here to make a difference, to mend the fractures of the world, a day at a time, an act at a time, for as long as it takes to make it a place of justice and compassion” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Sacks words resonate with me as I work to integrate the Sandy Hook tragedy personally and be of service to those impacted professionally.
As the Newtown community moves forward, the need for professional support is great. In my role as the Connecticut Counseling Association Executive Director, I have been involved with fostering a partnership between CCA and the Newtown Lion’s Club – a partnership in hope. The Lion’s Club has created the Sandy Hook Elementary fund (SHEF) to provide no-cost counseling to the Sandy Hook students, families, staff and emergency responders. CCA has created a referral list of counselors, with the appropriate clinical training, to provide counseling. If you interested in adding yourself to the referral list, please complete this survey: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dGpkTEdVVmdKUVRDNlNETWlqQjBuQ0E6MQ
The Journey of Hope and Healing that is just beginning for those impacted by the Sandy Hook shooting is likely to be an enduring experience for the survivors, families and the counselors who bear witness to their grief and loss. We must support one another through this process as therapists and as human beings.
Deb Del Vecchio-Scully is a counselor and writer who focuses on healing the mind, body and spirit. She specializes in PTSD, Chronic pain and mood disorders. For more information: www.anschealthandwellness.com