Why we must start talking about trauma now

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Signs hang outside Edmond Town Hall, a building that houses a community theater and offices, Monday, March 25, 2019, in Newtown, Conn. Jeremy Richman, father of Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting victim Avielle Richman, was found dead early Monday at the building where he had an office. The chief medical examiner's office was to perform an autopsy Monday. (AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb)

Signs hang outside Edmond Town Hall, a building that houses a community theater and offices, Monday, March 25, 2019, in Newtown, Conn. Jeremy Richman, father of Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting victim Avielle Richman, was found dead early Monday at the building where he had an office. The chief medical examiner’s office was to perform an autopsy Monday. (AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb)

I have come to determine that the closer one is to a tragedy, the harder it becomes to write about.  

It is much like the way a school district will at times respond in a taboo mannner to a student suicide. “Talk to someone,” they say, while at the same time glossing over the incident like a zamboni on a rough sheet of ice.  

 What is the answer? Do we talk about hard topics such as suicide and trauma, with the underlying fear that someone might be negatively influenced? Or do we continue to hide such incidents away in dark shadows, following the concept of “out of sight, out of mind.”   

Sitting down to write an opinion piece about how we as a society must start talking about the recent acts of suicide is quite difficult, and at first I felt a slight tremble in my fingertips as I began to type. But it is this burning itch, seeming to come from the very word, that keeps such topics untouched.   

And we must overcome this tremor to start the conversation.  

Ok, here goes.   

Sydney Aiello. An unnamed male sophomore. Jeremy Richmond.  

Within the same week, three tragic suicides occurred all with connections to past school massacres. The communities of Parkland and Newtown are once again stricken with grief as they are faced with tragic effects of the past on the present. 

It is time for health teachers and guidance counselors in the education system to revisit this topic. Colleges should work to educate students on handling grief and PTSD, in the same manner in which they encourage acts of prevention.   

Handling grief as a college student can be incredibly difficult. It can be an isolating experience, as one fights the conflicting desires of attaining independence and seeking support. According to Heather Servaty-Seib, a counseling psychologist at Purdue University, “Many students are not comfortable talking with their peers about grief or family illness because they don’t want it to define them and, as a result, these students are often balancing stress and sadness on their own.”   

There is also a stigma around how one should respond after a tragedy that is not accurate or healthy. There is not one “right way” to feel or behave, and it is important to validate all ways one handles grief.  

It is okay to feel lots of emotions. It is okay to cry out of deep empathy and pain, and it is okay to feel anger or fear. It’s okay to be confused. It’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to not have all of the answers.  

Here at UConn, we are a community. We must provide support for each other, and for ourselves. No one should feel as though they cannot express thoughts about trauma and discuss events openly on campus, however, students should also be made aware of how to best handle the grief of peers. We as a society are uncomfortable talking about grief, because we don’t talk about it enough.  

Let us begin to heal through thinking out loud.  

“Thoughts and prayers” must be spoken, in order to start making a change.  


Kate Luongo is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kate.luongo@uconn.edu.

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