THE BLOG

From Columbine to Sandy Hook -- Building Resilience and Hope

07/02/2013 11:23 am ET | Updated Sep 01, 2013

In May, I had the unique opportunity to walk a familiar path with journeymen traveling the road for the first time. A fellow Columbine alumni and I traveled to Newtown, Conn. to share a book that was written for the Sandy Hook community. My goals with the visit were simple: listen to their experiences, cry with them and offer perspective wherever my story proved helpful.

Remarkably, the stories and questions I heard paralleled those from Columbine. Many of the Sandy Hook parents and teachers continue to work through the impact of their tragedy. One parent asked, "How were you able to go back to your school after the shooting?" I explained that support from our parents was essential. After the incident, on our first day back to school, our parents formed a human wall to cheer us on and shield us from the media. With my retelling in Newtown, I grew unexpectedly emotional, drawing the parallel between this community and my own. They would do and had done similar gestures to protect their kids, and that effort represented a big step toward healing.

One of the most profound gifts we receive in life is to walk with someone who has been hurt. It's not easy, but if we make time to treat the people we meet as if they need our help, we'll be right more than half the time. Our inherent itch to nurture gets scratched whenever we give someone our help.

Many from Newtown mentioned that our being there showed that they too could reach a good place. While speaking with these people, I was impressed by their resilience. I recognized the familiar pattern of grieving and tried to provide reassurance that healing will eventually come.

The effects of grief and trauma are widespread, coming in many shapes and sizes. School shootings are just one example. We're more likely to come across divorce, abuse or loss in our day-to-day. As we try to help, sometimes the real challenge is in knowing what to say and opening up a very difficult conversation. That's why resources like ResilientHope.org are helpful.

While the site is still growing, it offers visitors content, videos and survivor testimonials that can be consumed in privacy and on a personal timetable -- aiming to help us build resilience when hard things happen. One video speaks to the nature of healing, sharing a hopeful perspective with the viewer and encouragement to keep moving forward:

"When it sunk in that I could take the hardest event that I've had to deal with and turn it on its head to help others, I was so excited," said Kathy Carlston, ResilientHope.org founder. "The thought that this project can help others do that with their own hardships is extremely motivating."

In our very busy and cluttered lives, it's important to make time to consider how we can help the people around us. Frankly, it's comforting to know that there are people who, despite tragedy, have found a way to help themselves and those around them. They offer reassurance that even when the future seems dark we can hold on to hope and have confidence in knowing we can heal and find happiness.