Ask Golden Willow

When tragedy impacts everyone, trust is shaken


Dear Ted: I am so deeply affected by the tragedy in Florida. I'm sad for everybody involved: the victims, their families, the community and everybody impacted by this tragedy. I am amazed at the level this has hurt my heart. I am overwhelmingly sad and see that I am even a bit nervous in town these days. My sense of trust in society and the government has been impacted deeply. It is as if I have lost a level of innocence. How can something so far away have such an enormous impact on me?  – Flowing Tears

Dear Tears: Your feelings and sentiments are so palpable right now, The tragedy in Florida has had such a ripple effect on everyone's heart near and far. In a world where information is immediately accessible, the world becomes a small place and a universal community arises.

Whenever you are given information about an event, your brain immediately runs the information through your survival process of how it affects you. This does not mean you are hijacking someone else's story. It is how you survive as an individual and how we survive as a species. When a horrendous tragedy includes the deaths of innocent children, an immediate sadness overwhelms you no matter what your beliefs. We want to protect our children within our family as well as in a worldly perspective. A loss of innocence happens within each person that is impacted, and a piece of that person is lost forever.

Loss of innocence happens anytime the illusion of safety you perceived, or a certain aspect of how you understood the world, is taken away. The children and families in Florida lost loved ones as well as a part of themselves.

Those children who survived immediately became adults. Parents who felt safe within their community lost that feeling of safety.

Public areas and now schools no longer feel safe. As the information is disseminated, people, near and far, have the shock that certain beliefs and realities are being tested. Parents become worried about their children and community, and it is no longer taken for granted that your child, or you, is safe. The normal feeling of safety has been stolen.

Later, as life starts to seep back in, your feelings of safety can come back, and a certain level of feeling safe can be reestablished. It is important that these matters are discussed, so the information can be gleaned from any tragedy and preventative actions can be taken to help build safety and prevent future tragic events. Support for everyone affected, especially our young people, is important as it allows trauma to become a time of sadness, followed by healing with actions. Healing comes from being seen, heard, and valued as well as finding ways to move towards healthy behaviors.

You may not find meaning in a tragic loss, but from the loss, you may find meaning in the actions you take in your life. My hope for everyone affected by this loss and other losses is that they are supported. Then they can find their voices, heal, rebuild and reestablish a new life from the previous one stolen. Even though a piece may be stolen forever, through tears, connection and healthy action, healing is possible.

I wish you well. Until next week, take care.

Direct any questions to Ted Wiard, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat at (575) 776-2024 or

This weekly column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat, and they will be answered privately to you and possibly used as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.