It is hard to imagine we are now approaching the two-year anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which shattered the community in which I live – and our country at large.This event left an indelible mark on how we approach school safety and the choices we make with our children.
Just two years. It feels like the time has passed, but it hasn’t been that long at all – and we know that time does not heal all wounds.
Trauma, a loss of stabilization, feels much different than grief, the mourning of a loss. While both share similar emotions – shock, disbelief, fear, a deep sense of sadness, hopelessness and despair – traumatic events can be deeply distressing. Grief, which comes in waves, washing over us as if the loss just happened minutes ago, brings with it the sadness and pain one might expect.
But when combined with the trauma that so many of our Parkland-area families and teens experienced, it can affect daily functioning, sleep patterns, and thought processes.
Not enough time has passed for us to fully heal from what we, as the communal collective, experienced. We may be able to understand and process the grief more fully, and recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress, but it doesn’t lessen the effects of either.
In Jewish tradition we turn toward prayer and moments of remembrance.
At the anniversary of the death of a loved one, we say the Mourner’s Kaddish, remembering and honoring that individual while our community envelopes us as we honor God’s name.
When visiting a gravesite, we leave a small stone at the burial plot to mark the visit with a natural object more permanent than flower. There are other beautiful explanations of this custom, too, including the visual reminder that while life is fragile, there is permanence and something solid amidst the pain. The stone, as well as the memory of a lost loved one, endures forever.
I wish I could say we are near the end of this process, but recovery from a trauma like the one that shook our community two years ago has set us on a long road toward healing.
Along the journey we will meet others who are further ahead of us, and some farther behind. Some who cannot continue to move and some who are running towards an arbitrary finish line that may not exist. What we need to remember is that how we treat and help others, with kindness and mutual understanding, is the best way for us to continue that process.
- Learn about the Jewish customs and rituals for dealing with death and mourning.
- Recite the Mourner's Kaddish and search for other relevant prayers.
- A rabbi/social worker walks adults through describing death and helping children cope in "11 Questions and Answers to Help You Talk to Children About Death."
- Rabbi Rebecca Rosenthal writes "How to Explain Bad Things to Your Children."
- Learn about gun violence prevention through a Reform perspective, then get involved in the Reform Judaism community's work.