Silence as a reaction to tragedy

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”  ~Mister Rogers

I am saddened today by the news of (yet another) shooting at a school that has left many dead, including many young children. It is hard to comprehend why someone would do something like this, although it’s clear to me that the shooter must have been driven by some deep pain of his own.

I am also saddened by so much of what I have seen of reactions on social media in the hours since the news broke. On the positive side, I have seen many people expressing enhanced gratitude for the lives of their own children. It is good to be reminded of just how precious the lives of those we love are. I’ve also read statuses that express grief and shock at what has happened.

On the less positive side, I’ve seen a lot of people taking other people to task for their ways of expressing their grief. I saw people on Twitter suggesting that it was inappropriate to post about anything other than the tragedy today. I saw people’s anger flare into fiery political discussions about gun control legislation. (I agree that this conversation probably does need to happen, but it might be worth waiting a day or two to let emotions settle before rational discussion can occur.) I’ve seen blame of other groups. I’ve read of religious leaders commenting on the tragedy in ways that must be profoundly hurtful to those experiencing this first hand. I’ve seen people marketing their own resources, webinars, radio shows, etc. as means for people to deal with the crisis.  I’ve seen lots of people posting pictures of candles and such on Facebook in ways that are not always clear whether they believe that this genuinely supports those who are grieving or whether they are just wanting to make sure they are seen to have an appropriate expression posted to make themselves look good. (Yes, I can be a bit cynical.)

And it all makes me sad. Sometimes I think that the only appropriate response to something like this is silence coupled with a helping hand. By those who are able to step in and be there alongside those that are grieving and traumatized. By those who offer simple expressions of support and kindness.

It is in watching the number of people who do step up and offer real help and assistance that I am encouraged, in this situation and in others. Most of the rest of the commentary seems more like noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. Silence may well be a better response to grief and tragedy in this noisy world than anything we can possibly say.

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4 thoughts on “Silence as a reaction to tragedy

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