trying to make sense of the world….and squeezing tight

When tragedy happens it takes a few days to sink in, for me.
It was the same with 9-11. I was horrified and glued to the TV and couldn’t believe what was happening.

But it wasn’t until days later when the media started sharing backstories about the individuals….what they were doing that morning, the train they missed or hadn’t missed that put them in the Towers at the moment of impact, the camping trip they’d just taken with their kids…all those human details that had me crying in the car at a stoplight or in a bathroom stall, thinking about the unthinkable.

The Newtown, CT shooting stirred inside of me all weekend.  Like many of you moms with young children, the story is just too close to home.  I wanted to sit in front of the TV and let the news pour in and feel connected to the situation, as I had with 9-11.  But with my kids in the house I chose to keep a distance and avoid the ugly reality, till nighttime when they had gone to bed.  And I thought I was handling the news of it all fairly well.   But then I dropped Lucy off to school on Monday morning and it really sunk in.

At Lucy’s school the kids start the day by saying the Pledge of Allegiance, then the Texas Pledge of Allegiance (which is sooo Texas and makes me smile), and then there’s a short moment of silence.  I’m usually in the hall and back out to my car by this point.  But on Monday we were running late so I stood next to Lucy at her desk, hand over my heart.  After the pledge, the Star Spangled Banner was played from the loudspeaker.  And then they had a moment of silence and announced that we would pause a while longer to remember of the families and children of Newtown, CT.

I looked around the room at these 20 children, 1st graders, some standing quietly, some wiggling their legs and daydreaming of recess.  All of them so innocent and looking forward to the Christmas holiday.  And I just teared up.  I couldn’t hold it in. Another mom was there, hugging her son and probably thinking the same things.   I couldn’t imagine looking up at the classroom door to a crazy person with weapons in-hand.  What a horrible, pointless act.  My heart aches for those families who lost their own little Lucy and Owen and came home that afternoon to empty beds and unopened Christmas gifts.  What horrible loss.

I know this topic has been hashed and rehashed all week.

There are many conversations out there about gun violence, gun rights, home schooling vs. public schools, protecting our kids, teaching our kids about reality.  They’re all natural thoughts.  We want answers.  We need answers to something so senseless and heartbreaking.  It’s how our human minds work.

But I’m not sure there is an answer.
And all I can think is to continue being the best parents we can be and to teach our children strong values, to make good choices, and to be leaders for good.

I’ve never lost a child and can’t pretend to know what that’s like.  My heart, hugs, and prayers reach through the screen to those of you who have experienced it.  And my hugs to anyone who feels a little down and needs some hope back in their day.

Today I’m thankful that my children are still young enough that I didn’t have to explain to them the ugliness that lives in this world along with the beauty. Some day I’ll have to go there.

But right now I’ll squeeze tight to my little Star Wars fanatic and my tall skinny Lucy girl and my edible squishy baby and be thankful that despite the hard the days, they still call me Mom.  And I hope that never changes.

  1. 1) Spencer

    “…continue being the best parents we can be and to teach our children strong values, to make good choices, and to be leaders for good.” Well said. I agree. I hope we can all love more deeply, especially the young children that are closest to us.

  2. Oh Dana, thanks for this post. Beautifully written and had me tearing up (AGAIN). I had a similar reaction watching the teachers at Em’s school all lined up singing “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee” at her Christmas program this week and so many little ones standing behind them, many blissfully ignorant of the bad things in this world – I kept telling myself “don’t think about it, don’t think about it” but I couldn’t help myself and the sad tears started flowing. Those poor little ones, those poor teachers, families, community…I’m now in action mode. It starts at home, you are right, and we need to look out to help each other too.

  3. 3) Leigh Anne

    Very well said! Thx for your thoughts;)

  4. 4) Lucinda

    beautiful post. thank you for sharing.

  5. 5) amanda

    You have just spoken for every mother. My kids are 5 and 2. I am glad that they are unaware of the terribleness that took place in Newtown, but sad that I will have to explain it to them someday.

    This weekend we are going to make dozens of snowflakes to send to the Newtown PTA. They plan to use them to decoate the new school that students of Sandy Hook will return to in January. Although I won’t tell them what happened I do plan to tell them that we are making snow flakes for children who are very sad. Hopefully someday when we do talk about what happened, they will remember that they did something that was kind and good to help others.

    see for details about the snowflake project.

  6. me..spending time with our matter what their soooo important. I feel that so many parents don’t have time for their children…everything is so rushed. I personally feel that so many problems could be solved if we spent time as a family….loving each other and talking with each other! Happy Holidays….

  7. Beautiful, Dana. I have been feeling exactly the same. Crying with my eldest, 13, who can’t be so sheltered from the news, and feeling jarred at times by the contrast between what I’m reading/ seeing and the happy chaos in my home. Thanks for sharing.

  8. 8) Jackie

    I had the same thoughts about my own kids and the parents who didn’t know what happened to their kids or had to explain to siblings why their brother or sister wasn’t coming home, and the whole Christmas thing. I get teary-eyed and ache for those families and that community. During the difficult parts of my days I try to remember that there are families out there that would love to have their child screaming and running through the house, runny noses and sticky fingers and all.

  9. 9) Tammy W

    Thank you Dana. Beautifully put and perfect timing.

  10. As a mother of a first-grader here in Austin, I had a struggle as to whether or not to tell him about what happened. I chose not to. I’ll be there with honest answers when the day comes, and I know I cannot shield him forever. Right now, he is at a point in his life where he builds fears up in his head, and school is somewhere I want him to feel safe. I just hugged and loved on him and let him know how precious he is to me.

    Another blogger posted a quote from Mr. Rodgers that I really liked:

  11. The two things I have taken from this tragedy are 1. We need to hold our babies close and appreciate every single moment. 2. When we see a problem, it becomes our problem. I feel like we live in a society where too many people see a problem- whether it’s a disturbing letter from a troubled youth, a person buying a few too many bullets, or someone just acting a little off- and we assume someone else will take care of it, or brush it off because we don’t want to seem intrusive/rude/nosy/etc. We need to stop being afraid to act and make it our problem.

  12. 12) darci

    C’mon, you can’t have me crying in Starbucks

  13. I was ok reading this until you described staying on with your little one on Monday morning.

    Long story, but I’ve been away from my kids all week and I won’t see them until tomorrow night. It’s been hard with images running through my head, imagining “what if” … my thoughts are consistently and constantly with those families and the children who survived but bore witness.

    Amanda – I sent snowflakes also … that was healing in its own way!

  14. 14) Jennifer F.

    My oldest is in kindergarten. My husband teaches 4th grade at her school. I heard about this horrible tragedy as I drove home from my job as a school psychologist. To say that this sickened me and horrified me on many levels is an understatement.

    We chose to tell our daughter very, very little about this on Sunday night because we knew that other children were not shielded from knowledge of this tragedy as she was. We had the TV off, but other parents may not have… other kids have older siblings or ride the bus with “big kids”. As parents, one an educator, one a mental health professional… we thought it was the right choice. Also, my husband was unable to be in school on Monday and we didn’t want her to hear anything and not have Daddy right down the hall. She feels so safe and happy at school, and we want it to stay that way.

    Of course, a little girl in her class told her that, “In a movie and in real life, a man shot 85 kids at a school”. My daughter was worried, but not as frightened, I believe, as if we had not prepped her. We answered her questions briefly and simply, correcting misinformation, and I held her in my lap as she sobbed. It tore my heart out. She still knows basically nothing and I hope to keep it that way. She also knows that she can ask us any questions at any time and we will answer her, but that we will not force her to talk about it. Hopefully, this will be a foundation for other difficult topics in the future.

    I am not, for one second, saying that anyone else should say anything to their child. I wish ours had no clue whatsoever about this. We just had a feeling… and sadly, were were correct.

    Letting my daughter go to school Monday was very hard. Her teacher let me know how she was doing through the day. Being at the elementary school I was at that day was hard. All of those sweet babies… it was all so surreal.

    I still tear up and feel ill when I think of this tragedy. There are so many things that contribute to this and it is all just plain horrific. I hug each of my babies, 5, 3, and 1, more every day. I try to be more patient and cherish even the fact that the baby still wakes us up at night much of the time. My baby is healthy, my baby is alive. I will take that any day.

  15. 15) Chelsea

    Im reading this while breast feeding my 6 week old baby boy at 4am. It hurts deep in my heart to think about those children, teachers and families affected by this tragedy. My 4 yr old son starts school in February and it’s got me feeling so anxious. I know things are different here in Australia but I’m still struggling with letting go and letting him grow. I couldn’t imagine the fear you felt dropping Lucy off. I pray this never ever happens again and pray God gives us the peace in our hearts we need to let our children go and grow.

  16. 16) Jennifer

    Thank you for posting this. i check in daily to see if you have posted anything new. I love your blog and it always brings me happiness and I have really needed that along with many others i am sure. my lil one is 13 months and though other events have always left me troubled, this is a whole new experience for me. I am sad. I am scared. I am angry…I am also glad mine is too little to have to answer questions as I do not know what to tell myself even. There are so many issues but I think as a nation we need to own up and like you say, start parenting our children to become the kind of people this world needs them to be, and as adults not be afraid to stand up and say or do something to make our world a better kinder and safer place. God bless to all of you. Have a safe and happy holiday season.

  17. About 4657.98 miles away I’m crying. Living in Denmark, this story also fills our headlines, and hurts me so much!

  18. 18) Joy

    Sacrificial lambs. My husband feels this is the term for the victims and I am thinking he is correct. Beautiful sacrificial lambs to wake up a nation and world who need to realize what is truly important. We attended 2 Sunday school church programs this past week and we both teared up when the children entered. I am sure everyone has the same response, you just can’t help thinking about the sorrow and loss. Like everyone else, we feel helpless but we have been praying for healing and comfort for the families. Hug your families…cherish every moment. Merry Christmas….now more than ever we need the light of Christmas.

  19. 19) Jessica

    You echo my thoughts as well. My oldest is in Kindergarten, so this tragedy obviously hit me hard. We have been out of town on a much needed family vacation to Disneyland and heard the news while hanging out with some friends in Las Vegas. Before we left, I had thought that maybe it was silly for him to miss an entire week of school right before a two week break. After I heard the news I was so grateful that I get to have my little Tate close to me for a few weeks, to make me feel better. I will one day have to explain all these things to him, but for right now I am grateful we could just go on rides, train like a Jedi and be at the happiest place on earth without him even knowing what evil happened.

  20. Hello Dana,
    well put and beautifully written!
    Although I´m almost at the other end of the world… when I heard it on the news it gave me shivers all over and made me so sad!
    Often we just forget how blessed we are to have healthy, cheeky, loud, … children!

    All the best

  21. 21) Amy

    Thoughts and prayers to the families from over here in the UK too. Such a senseless tragedy. I held my son a bit tighter that day and have done ever since. Wishing you and all your readers/followers best wishes for a safe and peaceful holiday.

  22. 22) Fenna

    a beautiful post Dana! There is an answer as to why this happens and I wish I could say it eloquently and beautifully but the truth is, it is not beautiful–it is ugly, it is horrid, it is evil. It is SIN. And, as a nation (including Canada, and actually the whole western society) we have turned away from God. We have said to God in wicked rebellion, ‘We do not need You. We can handle things ourselves.’ And, I believe that God has stepped back a little and let us ‘handle things ourselves’ and that is not going very well. And, it never will unless we turn to Him for our Salvation and for the power to fight against sin in our own hearts. (I know, it sounds horrible, but each one of us has that seed of wickedness in his/her heart and it is by the grace of God that these things do not happen more often!) May God work on the hearts of this society and turn our hearts to Him–that He may dwell in our hearts! May we see that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Light–apart from Him there is no salvation.

  23. 23) Collette

    Thank you for this. You made me cry but thank you. I love your always measured, grounded and heart-felt thoughts.

  24. Beautiful post, Dana. Had me in tears, again.

  25. 26) Shawna

    Dana, your photos are absolutely breathtaking. In your “spare time,” you could totally be a professional lifstyle photographer. You’d be booking family photo shoots every day. And as always, you’re an amazing and inspiring writer. And last, I can’t believe how much Owen is starting to look like Casey!!

  26. 27) Yana

    crying with you

  27. 28) Alexandra

    It’s unimaginable.
    How can one do such a terrible thing?
    And at a school, 5,6 and 7 year olds.

  28. I am crying now…on the other side of the world…
    It is a nightmare.
    And the only thing I can say, is
    Let’s start little , step by step..
    Be the change you want to see in the world.


  29. I cannot begin to imagine what it feels like for those parents who felt that day was just a normal day dropping the kids to school…
    They are truly no words…

  30. 31) Sarah H

    I had a similar experience yesterday. I went to my daughter’s class for her holiday party (I have 2 first graders) and the school had a lock-down drill. Later was the holiday sing-along assembly. About 700 people crowded into a very small auditorium, they’re singing a song called, “oh be joyful”, and I’m just bawling my eyes out. We don’t have tv or a print newspaper, so we hadn’t had to explain anything to the kids because they didn’t know about it. But when we were talking about the lockdown drill, which one daughter said the school had in case there was “a robber” I had to tell them a little bit about it. It’s hard, raising young children. Those steps away from perfect innocence break my heart as much as any tragedy ever could.

  31. This post hit home for me too. I have a 1st grade daughter as well and a three year old daughter and I thank you for putting words to my feelings. Friday’s events shook me to my core and not a day has gone by that I haven’t cried when thinking about it. It took all my will power not to immediately go and pick her up from school right when I found out. We chose not to tell our 1st grader and the only thing she knows is that 20 kids died (not how or where or why) and she found that out when she turned on the tv to watch cartoons Saturday morning and the news happened to come on. Who thought it was a good idea to put that on the news in between Saturday morning cartoons? Sheesh. My heart goes out to all those involved, especially the parents, teachers, kids, and first responders.

  32. 33) Krista Hansen

    Thank you for your beautiful post. It was so hard to send my first grader back to school on Monday. I’m so grateful to have 3 full beds in my house. My heart breaks for any family with an empty bed.

  33. 34) Danielle

    Such a beautiful post!

  34. *tears* Stuff like this really hits closer to home when you have small children of your own. I can’t even imagine. It’s definitely put things into perspective for me. The prayers will continue!

  35. 36) Mary Kay


  36. 37) Claudia

    Beautifully put. There is no sense to it, nothing can explain it. And that is the hardest part to reconcile. May peace come, and forever stay..❤

  37. 38) Becky L.

    Thanks for the post, Dana. I’m right there with you. It was a very emotional pick up from school last Friday and Monday was difficult as well. My 1st grader and 4 year old have no idea what happened. I’ve been toiling over the same thoughts you have been this past week. It is a tough one to process. I am going to make some snowflakes with my kids for the Snowflakes for Sandy Hook project. See link below:
    I think this is a good place to start teaching my kids compassion. Not sure how much I will tell them about the tragedy, but it is something we can do to help those children, families, and staff members heal, and that is so important.

  38. Thank you for sharing this Dana. I don’t have children of my own but I have a niece who is now 15 with whom I am close to. I still grieve for the families and especially the other children who witnessed such a horrible tragedy. I have a special place in my heart for all children. Right now I wish I could just go hug them all and keep them safe.

    I think the two most important things any parent can teach their child is the value of other people and the difference between reality and fantasy. Too many young adults and teens seem to treat life and other people the same way they see their favorite characters on television/video games treat life and people. They need to understand that is not reality.
    Hugs to you and your precious little ones. 🙂

  39. 40) hotdish

    Well put, Dana.
    To echo Claudia and Mary Kay: May peace come and forever stay.
    Love and kisses to all.

  40. 41) Danielle

    Simply Lovely.

  41. Thank you so much for the lovely post. I too keep watching the news and reading on-line after my little go to bed. I think that this story is so devastating and that I have a need to feel more conected to the victims, to know about them and who they are.

  42. 44) ruth

    I’m the same way. Even though I heard about it the day it happened, it wasn’t until Tuesday that I let myself really feel the heartache. And bawl. And squeeze my little ones extra tight. And soak them more than I usually do, but how I should do it every moment of the day.

  43. Beautiful post. I love the photos of your adorable kids, too. I wish we never had to teach our kids about the horrible, hateful things that happen in this world.

  44. 46) Carol Barringer

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts so beautifully. eQuilter is organizing a quilt drive to be given to all those involved. The details are not final yet but the quilts will be small/wall and include “26” in some way. It helps me cope to do something like this, to reach out in some way.

  45. 47) Becky T

    Dana, your post had me tearing up – again – and my baby is 28 with his own infant now. This touches every one of us.

    In my morning blog travels I saw a nice post that someone had put up with a photo of Mr. Rogers and he was consoling a child. I guess it was from his book, he told of how his mother dealt with tragedy when it hit. While they could see the horrible images, his mother would say, “Do you see any helpers? How are they helping? What do you think they are doing?” This was her way to focus the child away from the emotional impact of the tragedy and instead focus on the positive that occurs in the situation. This provides the child with a sense of hope when all seems hopeless and prepares them to effectively deal with tragedy in a positive manner rather than to wallow in helplessness.

    I think that’s a really positive message to share when the unthinkable happens.

  46. Young mom or old mom (me), this week has been so hard on our hearts. Thanks for sharing some wonderful ways we can help – maybe to ease their pain and to definitely ease our own. I love what the previous comment said, Becky, I heard it on the news, too…Mister Rogers’ mom knew what she was talking about…and with this post you have become one of “the helpers.” Thank you Dana and Merry Christmas! Give your kids an extra hug from your fans! xo

  47. It really touched me when I heard the news (I’m in Ireland), and as the days go by and we’re closer to Christmas, I’m thinking a lot of those families who have lost their children. I have a 3 year old girl and a 7 month old boy and I can’t imagine my life without them. When I saw the faces of those sweet children as Obama was naming them it was so hard. But you are right, you can’t make sense out of this world…
    We can only love them… to the Moon and back…

  48. 51) Jessica

    Thank you for posting this. It brought tears to my eyes.

  49. 52) Jami

    Beautifully said. Thank you

  50. 54) Diane

    This tragedy still keeps me tearful. Sleepless nights and I have even stayed away from the TV to avoid my own sorrow. Spend time with those little ones because trust me before you know it they will be off to college and that brings a whole new way of worry for Mothers. They grow up way too fast so forget about all us bloggies who look for your posts and take time for you and yours. Even though I love reading your blog.

  51. 55) Rachna Alice George

    I am a new fan of yours. I recently started learning to sew and then i found your site and i feel so alive again. The topic you discussed here is such a sensitive one that i would never be able to put words to. It is something that has been bothering me since my daughter is getting ready for school and everything. Its scary and i am happy you shared your thoughts and i found myself fighting back tears. Our children are our best friends and I am so thankful for them.

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