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For most us, February 14th marks Valentine’s Day to celebrate with loved ones, but for many in Parkland, Florida, it is the day that marks the tragic loss of 17 innocent lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Anniversaries of trauma are difficult days. They evoke intense emotion and bring back traumatic memories from the tragedy.

It is sometimes anticipation of the anniversary that is worse than the actual day. This is not meant to say that the anniversary is an easy day, by any means. However, anticipation of the anniversary builds over time, so it lasts longer than the actual anniversary day.

Anticipation of the anniversary holds a lot of unknown. How will the day go? Will I be able to get out of bed? Will I be able to keep it together?

The anniversary and the time leading up to the anniversary is a time to pause and process your emotions. Recovery from trauma is a process. It takes time to move through the stages the grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Not everyone will experience all stages, and the order you go through them can vary. Recovery usually requires painful emotions be thoroughly processed. Journeys after trauma and loss will be different for everyone.

February 14, 2019 marks one year since 14 innocent students and 3 innocent teachers lost their lives to gun violence. It marks one year of nightmares and flashbacks for the surviving students, teachers, the MSD families, and the larger Parkland community.  It marks one year since a tragic Valentine’s day, where many started the school day like any other, left forever changed by mass violence.

To those impacted by the shooting, you may feel a rush of overwhelming feelings as you reflect on the past year and look ahead to next.Tragic flashbacks running through your head and you can’t seem to get away from your emotions. Outside pressure for what you will do or how you will mark the day may be overwhelming.

Pause. Breathe, and breathe again. These feelings are normal. If you wait a little longer and focus on your breathing, the uncomfortable emotions will eventually pass. When the sun rises on February 15, 2019, the first anniversary of the worst day of your life will pass too. It may feel like a weight has been lifted from your chest.

As you continue your recovery journeys, I send my thoughts, prayers and a few words of advice from a fellow survivor: Don’t compare your experiences. Make self-care a priority. Be kind to yourself.  Be patient with yourself. And remember, breathe.


Author: Lisa Hamp, Virginia Tech Survivor

We are so thrilled to hear that Jayme has been found. The ordeal this family — this community — has had to endure has been horrific and on-going as her surviving family, community, and many of us across the country have waited, prayed, and hoped for her safe return.

Today Barron School District Administrator Diane Tremblay thanked Safe and Sound Schools for providing training and support in crisis response, trauma, and recovery. It is our honor and the mission of our dedicated network of professionals to be able to support the community, provide connections to resources, and to find meaning in our own loss and tragedy by helping others.  We are grateful for the existing relationships and connections that we and our team members have with local school and law enforcement in and around this tightly knit community.

It is important to understand that Jayme and her community’s journey does not end today. While we feel joyous at Jayme’s return, the process of healing and recovery has no prescribed timetable. Each member of the community will have their own unique way to heal, their own journey to follow.

Safe and Sound Schools will continue to provide ongoing support, helping the community develop healthy and supportive programs, activities, and resources to help restore a sense of safety and build sustainability for the long term.

Jayme’s rescue has been truly a team effort among the public safety authorities, school leaders, and the entire community—not to mention this incredibly brave young lady herself. We commend the positive spirit and faith that kept hope alive for Barron and so many other communities facing and recovering from crisis.


Safe and Sound Schools

While schools are among the safest places for young people in our society, the recent mass shootings and school shooting in Benton, Kentucky, can increase fears and safety concerns for children and parents.

While the odds of a child aged 5 to 18 years being the victim of a violent death at school are extraordinarily low, it can and does happen. Consequently, it is important for parents to have guidance on how to address such events with their children. Adapted from guidance we have developed for the National Association of School Psychologists, in this blog we offer some of our thoughts on how parents can support their children when they ask questions about school violence.

Develop and Foster Resiliency

Proactively developing resiliency can help your child develop resources needed to cope with trauma exposure. Internal resiliency can be promoted by:

  • Encouraging an active (or approach oriented) coping style (e.g., helping others, taking action to help yourself)
  • Teaching your child how to better regulate their emotions and solve problems
  • Providing your child guidance on positive, healthy ways of coping
  • Fostering self-confidence and self-esteem by building upon your child’s strengths
  • Validating the importance of faith and belief systems

External resiliency can be promoted by:

  • Facilitating school connectedness and engagement in school and community activities
  • Facilitating peer relationships
  • Providing access to positive adult role models

Provide a Safe Place to Talk

Next, let your child know you are willing to pay attention, listen, and without forcing them to do so, talk about school violence. Protect your child by answering questions truthfully and providing reassurance that adults will take care of him or her. When providing facts about school violence, avoid providing any unasked-for details that might increase fears and emphasize actions adults and their school are taking to help keep them safe.

Build Community Connections

Connect your child to others by engaging the assistance of your child’s teachers, a school psychologist, coaches/mentors, friends, and neighbors. Spend extra time with your child and encourage engagement in familiar routines and activities.

Take Care of Yourself

It’s important to be aware of your own emotions, and while it is okay to show some emotion, it is a problem when adults lose the ability to regulate their emotions or fears in front of children. Especially for youth in preschool and primary grades, this makes a situation seem more frightening. If you are struggling to cope with the reality of school violence, reach out to others with similar experiences, or seek professional help. Taking care of yourself, will help you to better care for your child.

Increase Self-awareness and Understanding

It is important for your child to learn how to identify and manage fear and anxiety related emotions. You might tell your child to listen to their body’s “alarm system.” Help them to understand that stress reactions can help to keep them safe from physical and emotional harm in a dangerous situation, but when danger is not present such stress is not helpful. Enlist the support of a school psychologist to help your child regulate emotions such as anger, anxiety, and fear.  Development of these skills empowers your child with knowledge that they have control over their emotions.

Build Confidence

Encourage positive messaging by helping your child to assert: “I am strong,” and “People care about me.” Help your child to understand that while they may not have complete control over their circumstances, they do have some control over how they respond to the situation and how they seek support. Review safety protocols their school has in place and what they can do to get to a safe location if there is a concern. Refer to Developmental Levels of Safety Awareness for information on providing such guidance.

Increase Empowerment through Engagement

Let your child know that his or her voice matters.  Help them find a way to be a part of the solution and a true stakeholder in safety.  Younger children may enjoy starting or joining a Safety Patrol at school, while middle and high school students may take a greater leadership role by starting or joining the Safe and Sound Youth Council  in their school.

Seek Help

If your child is distressed, keep in mind that recovery is the rule. However, if stress reactions do not begin to lessen after a week or more, consider seeking the help of a trained professional such as a school psychologist. This is especially important if your child has ever been directly exposed to an act of violence or has lost a family member.


Dr. Melissa Reeves is the Immediate Past President of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and a speaker and advisor for Safe and Sound Schools. Dr. Stephen Brock is a former President of NASP and speaker and advisor for Safe and Sound Schools.