After Newtown: Dealing With the Grief


Words cannot convey our profound sadness as Newtown, Connecticut begins to bury the victims of Friday's massacre.

Our entire nation mourns the loss of the children and their teachers, and shares the grief, trauma, and loss of that community.

Right now, the nation is rightly focused on the victims' families. News reports have paid tribute to the six courageous teachers who died trying to save the children in their care.

We have also seen touching accounts of the twenty young children who tragically lost their lives. Such attention to the victims, rare in so many crimes, sheds a spotlight on the impact of all homicides.

It also highlights our sense of powerlessness in the face of massive tragedy.

The nationwide outpouring of grief and compassion for the families may offer some measure of support. We hope, too, that in the coming days and weeks, anyone affected by this tragic event will seek help from trained counselors to cope with the trauma, loss, and pain.

For victims of previous crimes, news of the Newtown massacre may cause a resurgence of grief; they may relive the crime they experienced at an earlier time.

Suggestions on how to cope with the aftermath of crime are available on our website, Help is available at the Disaster Distress Helpline of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1-800-985-5990.

Because the shooter is deceased, families will be denied the sense of justice that comes from seeing their cases prosecuted and the murderer held accountable for his crimes.

They will also lack access to court-system-based victim services.

These factors intensify the need to ensure that these families receive needed services, such as health care, counseling, and victim compensation, to address their current and long-term needs.

The criminal investigation should proceed, even in the absence of prosecution, so that survivors' questions can be answered to the extent possible.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy took 27 lives.

We hope that in the weeks and months ahead, our nation will come together to address the availability of military assault weapons, the lack of adequate mental health care, and the need for better funded victim services.

Real action on these issues is a sorely needed first step in addressing the plague of mass shootings that have become all too common in this country.

Mai Fernandez is executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. She welcomes comments from readers.

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