I have started several posts on this subject, but then always hit the delete button before I start dissolving into a puddle of tears behind a computer screen.  Finally, I decided that some things were just better left unsaid.  

Last month was hard. I happened to hear the news that came out of Connecticut almost immediately that day due to satellite radio and then almost as quickly was pulled into work mode as a function of my job.  I am a very small part of a disaster response team that tries to help people through music and to support therapists who respond when terrible things happen.  We have been all too busy in the last couple of years.  We immediately started getting calls from therapists who wanted to help, to volunteer services, to donate funds to help victims... even before most of them really knew what the full extent of the day would bring, they were calling to see what they could do or to just say they would do whatever was needed.  

It's an amazing thing to see that kind of thing happen over and over... people being their best selves.  Last year, I helped respond to colleagues who lost their homes in the Colorado fires.  One lost her house, all of her belongings, her entire portfolio of original artwork... her whole neighborhood burned down.  And then a year later, I cashed that person's check when she donated hundreds of dollars to aid and support other colleagues who were displaced from their homes due to the hurricane Sandy flooding.  When I posted this on the day of the Newtown shootings, it was because I believe it.  I have seen it happen over and over.  Not only a wave of first responders, but also a second and third, who help pick up the pieces and try and give people an outlet for expression and coping after the story grows cold and the media forgets.

But despite the fact that I could still say I believed in humanity, something in me broke that day.  I can't explain how or why, but I was just an emotional mess and had to work very hard to keep it together.  And then in those quiet moments when I didn't have my job, my family, the dishes, or some other task to distract me, I lost it. More than a couple of times. That is not like me.

I knew I'd have to explain things to the girls, but I chose to wait.  I always talk to them about things they might hear about at school or from other kids so they'll be prepared, but we had a birthday party that weekend and that day was supposed to be fun. I didn't want to spoil it.  I also didn't want them talking about it to other children whose parents might not have had the chance to prepare their own kids.  That's what I told myself.  But the real reason was that I didn't think I could open my mouth and speak without bawling my head off and they probably didn't need to see that.  

So I waited.

We were successful too.  Our no television during the week rule often extends into the weekends these days so it didn't really come up.  I don't turn on live radio anymore and we don't get the paper delivered.  It's amazing how long you can keep the outside world out of your home if you work a little at it. 

But you can't do that forever and I had planned to talk to both of them, mainly The Dormouse, after church on Sunday.  Their school was planning on holding a moment of silence, so I needed to prepare them for that, if nothing else and what they'd hear from other kids.  I was mulling all this over from a pew in church when someone in the opening prayer asked for comfort for those in Connecticut who were grieving. It was a lovely prayer.  But The Dormouse keyed into it and after we all said Amen she leaned over to me and asked "What happened in Connecticut?" I don't know why it didn't occur to me that someone would pray for the people in church.  It's church, for Pete's sake.  I was just so lost in whatever funk I was stuck in, it didn't. 

"Someone hurt a bunch of people," I whispered back to her. "Some of them were children. We can talk more about it when we get home, okay?"  And then I stifled a new wave of tears.

We did talk more when we got home.  I explained that it was a shooting. In a school. That we didn't really know all the answers at that point in time.  And that there would probably be a lot of people talking about it when they went to school the next day and I wanted them both to know that there were a whole lot of people doing their best all over the world to keep kids safe, but this time, this place, something went wrong.  I told them to remember though, that there might have been one person inside that school trying to hurt people, but there were a whole lot more people running toward that school to try and stop it and to keep as many kids safe as possible and some people risked (and gave) their lives to make sure that more kids didn't get hurt.  And I reminded her what Fred Rogers, and all those therapists who called me on Friday, wanting us to know they stood ready to help, reminded me: that there are always more people trying to help than there are trying to hurt.   

The Caterpillar is a little bit too young to really make sense of it.  She brushed it off pretty quickly and went off to play in her room.  But The Dormouse wanted to know more. What she'd keyed into was the fact that it happened in Connecticut and she remembered her teacher at school said once that she was from Connecticut.  So she asked if she could make a card for her to say she hoped it wasn't her town and that her friends or family were okay.  I didn't figure there was much of a chance she was from anywhere near Newtown - Connecticut is a big state - but it was a good way for The Dormouse to process, so I said that might be nice.  Then I dashed off a quick email to the teacher to prepare her.

Only Connecticut is not that big a state after all, and The Dormouse's teacher grew up in Newtown.  She knew parents of children that were killed and though they weren't her family, she was devastated like everyone else. 

We've worked through lot of coping mechanisms over the past few weeks.  The therapist in me can feel this teacher processing her grief in front of the class and I know it must be hard for her.  She's been great, actually.  She let the kids make badges that said they supported Sandy Hook that first day (The Dormouse wore hers all week) but she didn't dwell on it too much. She also started a fund so people at the school could collect money for the families.  The Dormouse came home that Monday saying she wanted to donate all the money in her piggy bank to her teacher's fund.  

Without dwelling on the specifics, I have talked to The Dormouse almost every day about it.  Sometimes she has a new question.  Sometimes she just seems to need to talk about it.  Then I read about The Snowflakes.  That seemed a very real way to support for her to both work through her thoughts and to support the kids at Sandy Hook, so I shared with her that people making snowflakes to hang in the new school where the kids from Sandy Hook were being reassigned.  That way it would be a beautiful, warm place to enter into when they come back to school in January.  They'd get to come to school in a Winter Wonderland.  I suggested she make a snowflake and send it in.  A couple of days later, she came to me with her idea: she wanted to make five-hundred snowflakes over the Christmas break to send them to the students of Sandy Hook.  

Always bigger and better with that girl.  

Five-hundred was a lot, I suggested, maybe she should just try for one hundred and see how it went.  

She finished her one hundred today.  I know they've closed the project for donations because of the overwhelming response. Yet another example of people being their best selves.  I didn't tell her that part.  I'm still sending them; I don't care.  As we were putting her snowflakes in the envelope she said to me, "Do you think I should write something to go with it?"

"Well, if you wanted to write a card to the children of Sandy Hook, that might be nice."

"What should I write?"

"You can write whatever you want, honey."

I gave her a note card and she went over to the table with a pencil.  A few minutes later, she brought her card back to show it to me.

Dear Sandy Hook Children,

I hope you know that for every kid in danger, there are at least fifty who want to help. I am one of those people.  I have completed one hundred snowflakes.  I want you to know that school is a place you should feel safe.  This is why I made these snowflakes.  I hope you have a very fun, happy, and enjoyable Winter Wonderland.

From The Dormouse, age 9, 4th Grade

And then I cried and cried.