12/21/2012 01:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A History of Violence: Two

What heals heavy trauma and loss? I watched the scenes from Newtown: people hugging, comforting, supporting one another. Connecting. We all witnessed and experienced the sudden shock and the utter helplessness. The shearing loss of loved ones and of meaning. And then people came together again, at the interfaith ceremony. Not to meet the President, they said, but to support one another and feel the comfort of one another's presence. And we saw a leader who knew that he was not the center of attraction. A leader who knew that he had, just the same, a pivotal role to play. He was one of us, he mirrored our feelings, he cried. He was a leader who could "stand" the terrible impacts of this tragedy, reflect, and so help us begin to under-stand and find the way forward. Taking care of our children; how are we doing at that? He provided context, meaning, and a light that showed a path forward.

Where is God? many asked. God comes forth as the beloved community, responding selflessly for the benefit of all (Judeo-Christian); as the sangha, the fellowship of an interconnected and boundless web (Buddhism); as "all our relations," the great family of beings, infused with and conveying the great spirit (Native American).


We do God's work, and bring forth the best we humans have to offer, when we repair the fractured connections of body and mind, heart and soul, when we rebuild a sense of safety, comfort and trust, when we cultivate a safe, welcoming, unconditionally loving community. This is the alpha and the omega of the healing process. We provide the ingredients with our response. Unconditional compassion is not just the province of the Heavenly Father or the Sacred Feminine. With our compassionate, tuned in response, that heavenly sphere is right here now, amidst the madness and evil.

We learn from war that heavy trauma is like an IED blast. The sonic waves radiate out on multiple levels simultaneously, fragmenting the intrinsic connections within the service member (mind, body and soul), his/her family, social supports, his relationships with the community, the organizations charged with her care, the institutions responsible for protecting the safety of the country, and the entire culture. Repairing this pervasive fracturing means regenerating compromised capacities for connectivity at every level, and waking up from the dissociative fog of war that has enshrouded all the players in this devastating cycle. As with the war zone, so back on the homefront, we must wake up from the routinized violence that has enshrouded our country.

Residents of Newtown visibly expressed the impacts of traumatic loss: glazing over, shock, numbing, disbelief, utter helplessness and despair. People were literally blown away. But they made use of every shred that remained of their capacity to respond, to connect. To connect with one another, within themselves, and with something greater than themselves. They created spaces, small and large, where they could come together to regenerate safety, trust and hope. Emotional environments where their traumas could be represented. Not forgotten but transformed: from ghosts into ancestors (haunting traumatic residues to memories).

In the midst of the anguish, it was amazing and inspiring to see these healing forces at work, mobilized naturally by the survivors, the first responders, and the surrounding communities, near and far. This is the heart's natural intelligence at work. Of course some will need counseling, psychological or spiritual, and other services to assist in their healing. And we - as individuals, communities, and as a country - need to initiate an honest conversation and take real action.

But the power of community and of multidimensional connectedness cannot be overstated. It is healing in the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. It is good for survivors, for first responders, and for all of us, witnesses to unspeakable tragedy. It inspires us to realize how precious our lives are, to realize that peace begins with us, with our response.