When Tragedy Strikes :: What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

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I’m so sad I’m writing about a tragedy again. Because I’ve written about tragedy so so many times. But here we are.

Sending my kids to school on days like today isn’t easy. And I bet you feel the same. I want to hunker down with them in my bedroom. All of us cuddled in my king-sized bed . . . forever. But then that’s no way to live.

Why can’t we stop this? Why do we have to wait on pins and needles for the next tragedy, praying that it won’t be us?

It’s a complex issue. One law or one change can’t solve the problem of evil walking into our schools and killing our nation’s children. It’s going to be a compilation of people working together, saying, “This isn’t about me and my beliefs. This is a ‘we’ issue. This is a ‘together’ problem.”

when tragedy strikes

How about we put our babies before our platforms? How about we literally stop sacrificing our children on the altar of our agendas?

Sometimes the issues feel so big, so weighty, that I get overwhelmed knowing that I can’t possibly solve such a complex problem alone. But this quotation from Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and author, often comes to mind.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

So here are some things I’m going to do.

Will you join me in doing something today to shake your fist in the face of evil? Let’s say with our actions, “Guess what, Darkness? You lose!”

1. I’m going to act on my beliefs.

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve had convictions that I’ve never done anything about. I have not joined any groups. I have not given money to any organization that is working with mentally ill individuals. I’ve not written to my congressman or senators. I haven’t picked up the phone and called my legislators. It’s time for that to change.

{I’m glad to report that these things are not the case anymore since this piece was first written in 2018. But if they’re true for you, time for a change.}

2. I’m going to fight isolation off with a stick.

Doesn’t it seem like the perpetrator of these types of attacks is often a loner? It’s almost always someone on the outskirts of society. What if there weren’t any people on the outskirts of society? What if we all felt like we belonged? I’m sure this sounds like “pie in the sky” talk. But what if each of us just took in that one lonely neighbor or co-worker? Or what if we all volunteered at a school and prevented that one lonely kid from feeling abandoned by everyone?

If we all just did something, maybe that would take care of everything.

3. I’m going to talk to my kids.

I have older kids, but even if you have tinies, you’ll need to prepare your heart for conversations like these someday. We’ve talked about bullies and misfits and racism and mental health and guns a lot. But I’m going to talk about them again. And then I’m going to do it again after that. I don’t want my kids to be silent. If they see something concerning, I want them to be the ones who speak up.

4. I’m going to recommit myself to anti-racism.

I don’t know whether or not this most recent shooting had anything to do with racism. But the one before that did. And many more have. It is each of our responsibility to educate ourselves and our children on anti-racism. Can I speak plainly to white mothers real quick? I think I can because I am one. If you don’t understand the discussion around race in our country right now, will you please keep reading and asking questions? (Do not ask your black friends. They are exhausted and sad. But you can ask me.) We cannot let one more child grow up to hate those who are unlike him. Not. One. More. Educating our children on how to love and empathize and value humanity is not the responsibility of our schools or our politicians. This is on us, moms.

5. I will pray.

I know praying when a tragedy like this one occurs can feel like lip service. And I know some politicians have hijacked the word “pray” to mean “I’m not going do anything to fix this problem.”

But I am a person of faith. And I do believe in a God who hears of injustice and mourns with those who mourn. I believe people are miraculously comforted when others pray for them. I believe in a God who hates evil so much that he died so that someday everything bad will become untrue. And I know Jesus is close to the brokenhearted.

So I will pray. But I’ll also pray for myself. (And I’ll pray it for you if that’s OK with you.)

I pray that I won’t be so self-absorbed that I can’t feel the suffering of the world around me.

I pray that Jesus will turn my sadness into courage. My anger into action. And my pain into power to create change.

Mamas, we hold the future in our arms . . . quite literally. If we don’t do the next right thing for our kids, who will?


Other helpful resources . . .

The Surprising Solution to Gun Violence

Helping Children with Tragic Events in the News

How to Contact Your U.S. Senator

How to Contact Your U.S. Congressional Representative

Contact your New Mexico legislator.

Moms Demand Action To End Gun Violence

Devastatingly, this piece was originally published in 2018 in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas school shooting, and it has been revised in 2022. 



The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with. 

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Vanessa loves her people and loves Albuquerque and has lots to say about both. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, Nate, and they have three kids (Micah, Corban, & Evangeline). Originally from Florida, she’s lived in Albuquerque since 2009 when she and her family relocated to start a new church. Even though she misses wearing flip-flops year-round, New Mexico has truly enchanted her, and the desert feels like home. When she is not chauffeuring children about town, Vanessa works as the Director of Strategy and part-owner of Truly Social Digital Marketing Agency, enjoys volunteering at church, loves watching college football, and drinks a little too much coffee. She is passionate about connecting women with each other, loving her people, and finding the good in her place. Follow her on Instagram @vanessamaebush.

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