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Helping the Survivors of the Unimaginable: The Killings At Uvalde

“You Never Recover From The Loss Of A Loved One – All You Can Do Is Get Through It” Willie Nelson

I am writing this for two reasons.  First, to be helpful to those who want to help the survivors directly or indirectly.  And second, to offer suggestions for taking action in the future, to minimize the damage done by the criminally insane.

The murders of nineteen children and two adults, had an especial poignancy for me and Arleah.  We have worked with innumerable numbers of survivors of natural disasters, wars, and criminal massacres.  And Arleah’s practice, over the last many years has focused on the death of a child and its impact on families. But most significantly, we are bereaved parents.  There is nothing more horrific in life, than putting your child in the ground.

Our main concern, at this point, is that the parents who lost children, get to have their grief.  (We have nothing but disdain for all the blamers – the electronic media, the print media, and the professional critics of everything.)  From now on, the parents of dead children will begin a journey of grieving that will be with them, for the rest of their lives.  It will be gut-wrenching, out of control, totally irrational; and puzzling and scary for those who have had little or no experience with it.  And it will trigger the grief of unattended numbers of people who have lost someone they loved beyond comprehension.

Arleah and I are often asked, by those impacted by loss, what they should say and do.  We suggest that you say the following: “We are very sorry for your loss; and if there’s anything you need or anything we can do for you, we will be here.”  If you’re comfortable with it, give them a hug.  And if your relationship is close, hold their hand and ask them to tell you about their child.  

There is no experience in life that will make you feel more helpless and useless, then being in the presence of parents who have lost a child.  There is nothing you can say to change their loss, or make them feel better.  The less said the better.  Their pain is immeasurable and a necessary part of their grieving.  At times, it becomes intolerable for the helping person, and they say things in hope of relieving the parent’s pain, which are a vain attempt to assuage their own pain.  Nothing will push on your pain more than trying to help parents who have lost a child.  Recognizing what’s been touched in you, will enhance your ability to help others.

In the here and now, we recommend the following actions, in the hope of protecting our children and preventing future tragedies:

Harden our schools (and all other places where children congregate) – have only one way in, and one way out.  Have this entrance/exit guarded by a visibly armed, uniformed person.

Commit to having one school personnel for every 100 children, trained in firearms operation, maintenance and situational use.  Each of these individuals, at all times, need to be no more than ten seconds from a locked repository containing a firearm and ammunition.  These individuals will be the only persons who have the key to these repositories.  Only staff who volunteer will be vetted and trained for this role

In the not too distant future, we recommend the following: We need to support and lobby for a dramatic and complete reformation of the criminal justice system, with the emphasis on connecting criminal behavior with quick and direct consequences; punishment commensurate with the severity of the crime; and the end of diversionary alternatives.

Punishment commensurate with the severity of the crime means that the punishment must mirror the result of the criminal behavior – you take a life, you lose yours.

Eliminate the “insanity” plea.

Create an NGO whose mission would be to transition combat veterans from warriors to protectors.  That is, to use their skills and experience to protect children, teachers, and other staff, especially by insuring the integrity of the perimeter of the school.  No one else has the ability to quickly and intuitively design and implement a strategy for taking care of those who are helpless in the face of evil.

In future writings, we will expand on our recommendations.  We hope that what we have put forth, stimulates thinking and ideas for discussions that will produce plans and actions to protect our children.

Morrie and Arleah Shechtman

June 1, 2022

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