What Do You Say to Annapolis and Others Affected by Violence

Lessons learned on how to heal communities in the wake of senseless violence.

Posted Jul 01, 2018

KonyXyz/Pixabay
Source: KonyXyz/Pixabay

     Thursday June 28, 2018. Five more people die needlessly and violently!

     An apparently disgruntled man entered the Annapolis Capital Gazette Newsroom and took five innocent lives.

     At times like this, words cannot adequately capture the thoughts and raw emotions that are running through the community in the wake of the senseless violence that has repeated itself once again. But it may be of some value to mention the spectrum of reactions that are likely present, as it might just foster the healing process.

     This time violence has struck the town of Annapolis, Maryland. As I’ve traveled to over 30 countries around the world in the wake of trauma such as community violence, I’ve seen remarkably common themes emerge that I believe are worth mentioning. But before I begin, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention I live just outside of Annapolis. So for me, this is personal.

Bergadder/Pixabay
Source: Bergadder/Pixabay

     So what are those common reactions (Everly, Strouse, McCormack, 2015?

1.      Confusion. We ask ourselves how could something like this happen? We typically think violence such as this happens other places and to other people, but not here.

2.      Fear is a common reaction. We wonder if it’s safe to go shopping, to go to school, to even leave our homes.

3.      Frustration. We feel out of control. We ask, couldn’t something have been done to prevent senseless violence such as this?

4.      And of course we experience a deep sense of loss, needless loss.

Curriculum_Photografia/Pixabay
Source: Curriculum_Photografia/Pixabay

5.      We fear for our children. Are they safe? What lessons are they learning (Everly, 2009)? In times like these it's important to tlak to our children. 

6.      Then we get angry. We just want the violence to end. But we can never let someone else's anger lure us into destructive anger of our own.

     All of that said, what things buffer a community? What things help a community become resilient? I’ve written about some of these things in previous posts on this site to which I refer the reader.

1.      The single most powerful factor that boosts community resilience is coming together. Cohesive communities not only bounce back, they come back stronger. This is a time for cooperation, not discord. We need to focus on the things that we share, that bring us together; not the things that will divide us (Everly, Strouse & Everly, 2010).

2.      Open honest communications is essential to healing. There is no such thing as an information vacuum in situations such as these. If community leadership isn’t speaking, someone else is. Social media has become the community’s primary medium of communications. Constructive messaging is essential. We must avoid divisive blame-focused messages that tear communities apart (Everly, Strouse & Everly, 2010).

3.      If some change is possible so as to reduce the future risk of such violence, then we must make it. We should never be complacent and accept violence as the “new normal.”

4.      Fostering access to mental health services in the community can facilitate healing. We must remove any stigma associated with accessing such care.

5.      We must resist the temptation to pursue myriad of “feel good” overly simplistic solutions to complex problems. We must make a commitment to do the hard work required to make real change.

6.      Lastly, we cannot live in fear. We cannot inhibit the ways we live our lives. Doing so only gives away our strength and self-determination to those who would do us harm.

© George S. Everly, Jr., PhD, 2018

References

Everly, GS, Jr. (2009). Resilient child. NY: Diamedica.

Everly, GS, Jr., Strouse, DA, & Everly, GS, III (2010). Resilient leadership. NY: Diamedica.

Everly, GS, Jr, Strouse, DA, & McCormack, D. (2015). Stronger: Disciver the resilience you need to succeed. NY AMACOM.

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