Dear Life Matters,
You may have heard about this; several weeks ago a young man shot and killed his father, mother, sister and then himself.
This family lived down the street from us and they went to the same church.
I am still in shock but I am mostly concerned about my 15 year old daughter who was very good friends with the sister. They were exceptionally close.
The funeral is a couple days away and I feel like I need to do more than what I have done which is to be supportive and just listen. The church has counseling set up and she has seen somebody there once or twice.
She is asking me questions about God and asking why this happened to such a good church going family. I have really not known what to tell her. I knew the day would come when she would eventually start to see life as it really is but I never dreamt that she would have to face it so head on, in such a brutal way at such a young age. What do you think I should tell her?
(To the reader, I spoke with this woman right away after getting the question but she and I both thought it should be published anyway for others.)
I am so sorry for your family and the family that died. It is clearly tragic and as you put it, very disturbing.
Unfortunately, the world and America are clearly changing. It simply is no longer safe. Of course it never has been 100% safe here but there are big changes now with kids getting a hold of guns and many if not most of them have watched very violent video games. Some of these games actually have the player getting points for shooting someone in a shoot out.
I know these games help kids with hand eye coordination and quickness of thinking but I think some of the time, there are those kids that cannot differentiate between a video game and real life.
If nothing else, they get ideas and if they are mentally disturbed and/or have a lot of pent up resentment, we can have a very dangerous situation.
It seems that we cannot turn on the news these days without hearing about a completely crazy shooting with innocent victims killed.
This is the new reality so if I can put in my two cents, we need to start accepting this and educating our children. If I could design the curriculum in junior and senior high schools, I think this danger should be part of the children’s education.
There should be a big emphasis on how to tell if you yourself are vulnerable and how to spot someone who might be. Communications skills, empathy training and resources for young people, or any age for that matter, should be available.
A psychologist should teach these classes and there really is a lot that could be taught and learned that would hopefully help reduce all of these shootings.
Guns are a problem but they are not going away. I just wish there was a way to keep them out of the hands of young people whose brains are not even completely developed (age 25).
I think you should tell your daughter the truth. The truth being that God doesn’t control our every move, which is why we have to work on ourselves. And remind her that this young man was not church going and clearly was disturbed about something. And perhaps going forward she should be more aware and notice if anyone around her is acting different or strange and to talk to you about it if so. I wonder if the sister, your daughter’s close friend ever made any comments about her brother. That would be an interesting a point of discussion, at some point when appropriate.
We all need to learn, and yes your daughter too, that the world has changed and we need to be more vigilant and perhaps be just a bit more of our brother’s keeper.
Tell her that it is completely normal to be really sad and to cry and she needs to cry as long as she needs to cry. If it starts to go beyond sadness and starts to seem like depression, then help her to get some help.
Having said all of this, I would like to remind you that this is not just your daughter’s loss. This is a traumatic loss for you as well and probably to some degree for your family and neighborhood. You all need to be thinking about this stuff but also you need to take care of yourself and experience your own grief. Find ways to soothe yourself and your daughter because you are both really hurting.
Again, you have my sympathy. Feel free to write to me again, if you need to.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and a licensed marriage & family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or send your anonymous questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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