Greetings COPE community – As the saying goes, hope springs eternal. This isn’t always the easiest sentiment for grieving families to relate to or understand (especially these days). Similarly, this isn’t the message I hoped I’d be writing as we emerge from Memorial Day weekend and drift into the promise of summer warmth and rejuvenation.
Sadly, it was just 13 months ago that the past COPE Board President, Sandy Wolkoff, wrote here about the mass shooting in a grocery store in Denver and the importance of “being there for others in our community when they face unspeakable loss.” Yet here we are again after a heartbreaking month of senseless acts of gun violence in Uvalde, TX, Buffalo, NY and around the country, leaving a wake of shattered lives and communities, and a whole lot of people in need of healing and support.
We are a nation struggling to protect its children. Unfortunately, a lot of us know too well the shock, horror, and anguish of having someone taken from us too soon, and no parent should ever have to say goodbye to their child. These are unsettling, unpredictable, and scary times. We have so much accumulated grief from the last few years. And now once again, many of us are struggling with feelings of fear, rage, and despair. Our sense of safety, and worse yet, our innate need to provide safety for our children, feels like it’s been threatened to the core.
While I’m neither an educator, medical professional nor politician, I feel a responsibility, as a grieving parent and the leader of a grief and healing organization, to address what parents around this country are faced with time and time again – the almost crippling need to do something to keep our children safe – physically and mentally, and the terrible fear that things will not change. Personal safety and mental well-being are not things we or our children should ever have to sacrifice. It has been reported that childhood anxiety and depression are at the highest levels ever reported by professionals. This can no longer be about the right to bear arms or politics. This is about the right to a childhood. This is about the right to grow up safely and to feel safe. This is about the right to live. It is past time for legislators to prioritize the lives and interests of children over special interests and the political agenda of the gun lobby.
We, as a community, need to make it our absolute top priority, whether at home, in school, in places of worship, in public, etc. to make choices to fight for accountability and change from our elected officials; to channel our feelings of anger and use our collective voices and will to support and foster safety, kindness and empathy; and to invest in physical and mental wellness. Our families deserve it.
For those of you who are struggling with the weight of these recent events and similar past events that are too many to count, as well as feelings of hopelessness, I have this message: You are not alone. Be kind to yourself. I want to recognize the critical importance of communities (and organizations serving them like COPE) that support those who have suffered loss and require healing. I thank you for your continued support of COPE and I encourage you to take action to promote change in whatever way is meaningful for you.