December 17, 2012

On Another's Sorrow

Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief
And not seek for kind relief?
 Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow's share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be sorrow fill'd?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
And can he who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird's grief and care,
Hear the woes that infants bear,

And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity into their breast;
And not sit the cradle near
Weeping tear on infant's tear;

He doth give his joy to all;
He becomes an infant small;
He becomes a man of woe;
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh
And thy maker is not by;
Think not thou canst weep a tear
And thy maker is not near.

O! He gives to us his joy
That our grief he may destroy;
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by use and moan

~On Another’s Sorrow by William Blake

I was uncertain if I should write in this space about the Sandy Hook tragedy. The word tragedy does not do justice to what happened. And writing on a blog seems futile, self-indulgent right now. Actually, most things seem self-indulgent over the past few days.

But I cannot move forward personally without articulating the utter sorrow that weights my heart.

I just don’t know. This phrase runs through my head on repeat. The past few days I have found it hard at times to keep from crying. I weep for the innocence that was ripped from loving hands, for the bravery of the Sandy Hook teachers, for the heroism and strength of those first responders, especially the ones who removed the deceased from the school.

You just don’t do that. You don’t hurt children. You don’t senselessly enter a school and murder children. I often wonder about the motive. But I don’t think I want to know. I don’t want to understand what cannot be understood. My only concern in regards to the killer is that I worry, if he did in fact have autism, about the repercussions on the autism community and other children afflicted by mental health. 

The President’s speech last night reverberated in a deep part of my soul – we weep with you – and I was proud that he recognized we as a nation are not doing enough to protect our children. That we need stricter gun laws. After its 1996 mass shooting, Australia banned semi-automatic weapons and has not had a mass shooting since. I feel like Friday’s horrific event is the breaking straw – an opportunity to do something we should have done long ago. And I hope that the strong words of the people who have the power to change things do not evaporate into air but become iron-clad, irreversible agreements to protect our children.

I was alone when I heard the news on Friday. Being alone in shock and sadness is a strange and awful thing. Sadly, I felt the only way I could connect was through Twitter and vented some of the painful emotions there. I wrote letters to my local representatives, appeasing them to legislate stricter gun laws and advocate for more mental health supports. You see, my graduate studies are concentrated in the area of child trauma studies and intervention practices, and I wonder, from a clinical perspective, about the unfathomable struggles the Sandy Hook students and their families face over the coming months, and perhaps years.

Life feels so different now. I don't know how it will ever be the same.

The weight of Friday’s incomprehensibility ebbs and flows in its effect on my spirit. We are a week away from Christmas and yet all the glow and cheer of the holiday feels trivial…almost shameful. But then I think of how excited at least some of those sweet children must have been about Christmas. How they had written their letters to Santa and wondering if all their Christmas wishes would come true. So I am making a personal commitment to revel in this season of magic and miracles, to hold my loved ones close, and delight in the simple joys of this special time for those beautiful little angels and their heroic caregivers.

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