Sunday, December 16, 2012

When Tragedy Strikes Children

I sent this out to my team at Accolade following the horror at Newtown CT:

This past week, we all witnessed the horror of small children attacked and killed while they were in the safest place imaginable – their school.  We, in the business of caring, watched this with the rest of the world as it played out on our computer news feeds and on our television sets.  There is no way to make sense of this and I will not try.  I will, however share my thoughts on how we help the living following this crime.  How we focus on being the support that they may need through these horrific times. 

For all of us, the thoughts of our own children and our own families naturally come to mind.  I have three grandchildren in Connecticut and I could not help but think about how vulnerable they are.  My wife immediately took out a map to see how close Stamford, where they live, is to Newtown, the site of this atrocity.  We all needed to find ways to reassure ourselves about those we love, at the same time feeling a little guilty at our own relief as we thought of the parents and grandparents who would find no such reassurance as they learned that their own precious gifts were gone in the worst possible way. 

Here at Accolade, while we may seem far removed from this tragedy, we may be helping those in the media whose job it is to cover this story with sensitivity and care while trying to deal with the personal feelings and emotions the tragedy can invariably elicit in them.  We may have people we help who have lost children for which this episode brings memories that are too painful to bear.  We, ourselves may have our own histories and tragedies that this brings too clearly into focus.  Through all of our own personal prisms, we have to help. 

The first thing to realize as we try to help those who are affected is that there really is nothing we can do that is concrete to take away the horror.  We cannot go back in time and try to treat the lost soul who carried out this abomination.  We cannot go back and increase the security at that school to prevent his ability to get into the building.  We cannot position an alert police officer there who intervenes to save the day just before the tragedy as would probably happen in a television program.  We can, however, do what we do best.  We can listen.  We can empathize.  We can provide resources such as mental health professionals to help people though the immediate agony and the aftermath.  We can be there for those in need, sometimes just by quietly being with them, saying little but letting our presence be a small comfort for them. 

Rabbi Shaul Praver who was the Rabbi of the youngest victim, Noah Pozner, may have put it best when he was asked to give an explanation for such a horrific act.  He said, "I don't know the answer to that.  I never try to present a theological answer to that.  I think what's more important is to have compassion, humanity and hold someone's hand and hug them and cry with them."  

That is our role here at Accolade.  We are fortunate to have tremendous expertise in our own Accolade family as we try our best to help people deal with the aftermath.  Turn to the experts.  Ask for help.  Don't try to work through the pain alone.  We have to have compassion, humanity and to hold someone's hand, even over the telephone, and make our verbal hugs felt.  That will not be easy.  That effort will call upon us to feel emotions that are not pleasant or positive.  But that is what we must do for those affected.  It is what we do and there is no more important time to do it than in moments such as this.