Journey Toward Healing

This article comes to us from Megan Boyd and was originally posted on her blog “The Unconventional Counselor”. Be sure to stop by and check out more great posts like this one. (Ms. Boyd earned a gift certificate to for her submission. Learn how you can do the same!)

The entire nation watched in horror as the events of December 14, 2012 unfolded in Newton, Connecticut.  The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took the lives of 28 people that day; 20 innocent children, 6 staff members, the perpetrator, and his mother. There is no possible way to wrap your head around what these families and communities have been through.

As helping professionals, our immediate response is to want to figure out some way to help. As a community counselor, I thought about the children I work with, and how I would have reacted or what I would have done if these were my clients in my community. Traumas of this magnitude are so unthinkable that when they do occur we recognize the long journey that this community is going to need to work through in order to find some sense of peace surrounding that devastating day. Moreover, the 1 year anniversary is quickly approaching, which will trigger the emotions and events for each individual experience.

Approximately 20 miles outside of Newton sits the quaint community of Wilton. Filled with historical buildings and beautiful fall foliage, the towns of Wilton & Newton are not estranged. The residents of each share a history of shared trauma from 9/11, and in most social circles there is at least 1 degree of separation from a direct victim of the Sandy Hook massacre.

Within the past 2 days, a team of counselors comprised of faculty and doctoral students from Mercer University’s Counselor Education & Supervision Program had the opportunity to meet with some of these community residents, particularly those in the helping profession, (counselors, case managers, religious leaders, etc.) that were affected by this tragedy.

As a part of this team, I hope we made a tiny impression on their healing. We lead a 3-course workshop surrounding grief, loss, & trauma, sharing information about what they can expect for themselves as well as their clients they are serving. I am grateful for the opportunity be a part of this team. The following themes were addressed with attendees:

*Systemic Loss, (Community/Familial/Relational)

*Tasks of Grief

*Expected behaviors associated with grief/loss for children and adults

*Concerning behaviors associated with grief/loss for children and adults

*The individualized experience of grief/loss

*Trauma responses; including PTSD and symptomology

*How to make a referral

*Attending to scope of practice

*Self-care assessment

As I made my way back to Atlanta, I had some time to reflect on the experience, and I am finding myself feeling hopeful, humbled, and extremely thankful to have been able to be a part of this.

The space for the workshop was provided by Wilton Baptist Church, which was absolutely beautiful. It was upon first entering this building that the gravity of what this population endured began to set in. The people we met were immediately willing to share their story, how they are connected to Newtown, and how they are connected to the helping professionals.  We are especially thankful for the cooperation and collaboration with The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship for coordinating this trip.

After the first day of the workshop, the pastor conducted an inter-faith worship service. He lit a candle for each of the victims. Prior to the candles being lit, I was able to view the alter. Something about seeing this image and what it represented was an overwhelming visual.

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