And the Journey begins part 2……
Our next big hurdle for our family was returning to school for all of the kids. Not only was school going to be hard because of the trauma they had all experienced but they also were attending a brand new school. It’s the first day of school and everyone is as nervous as can be. The boys seemed more nervous about the safety of being in a school building, the girls seemed more nervous about meeting new friends. We really did not want to send them back to school so it was incredibly difficult for both of us as we watched each of them walk into their own classrooms. I think it was just as hard for them as it was for us. From January though the end of school my wife almost never left the school. Mainly because our youngest just couldn’t be at school without her there. It was a mixture of worry about his own safety and the safety of his mom, so he wanted her within reach most of the time.
Spring break came and went in a flash and things got worse at school after that. Although it was getting better for the girls as they began meeting friends the boys were still suffering. Again my youngest was fairing the worse. By May he was almost unable to go to school each day. Although he tried as hard as he could it was exhausting for him each and everyday. Our counselor “Mr Mike” said imagine being a women that was rapped in a mall parking lot. Then imagine you being that women and having to go to that spot in the parking lot everyday for 8 hours a day. No one in their right mind would expect anyone to do that, but that is exactly what we were asking of our youngest. Although this wasn’t the same school, everything there reminded him of his first grade class from Sandy Hook School.
All of this trauma that we were all facing was extreme and all six of us were handling it very differently. Being the parents we tried as hard as we could to find resources to deal with the trauma our kids were going though. And even though “Mr Mike” was an amazing counselor and was doing everything he could to help it just wasn’t enough. We searched and searched for information about PTSD, trauma, and the issues we were facing. Everything we found had something to do with military personnel. There just was nothing we could find that we felt applied to us. We were searching for information from someone that had been though something similar to us.
My wife had reached out to Dr. Mears after reading her book. She was a mom who’s son had been at Columbine during the shooting there. She went on to do research on school trauma and the effects on students and teachers after a school shooting. She was working with Denver University at the time and we gained her email though there. Honestly we did not believe that she would respond to us. We were wrong and she came to our house to meet with us fairly quickly after reaching out to her. It was an amazing conversation and she spoke to us as a mom who had gone though similar issues as us. We quickly saw that there were a lot of similarities between our experiences. This is what we were looking for this is what our family needed. She pointed us to some other resources such as Kiki, a teacher from columbine. John Michael Keyes, who lost his daughter in a school shooting and started I love you guys foundation. These people and others helped us more than we could ever imagine. They had the information we were looking for, the practical information.
Our youngest would not brush his teeth. No matter what we said or did we could not get him to brush his teeth. It was beyond frustrating and we could not figure it out. Before the shooting this was not a problem as he was a very good and obedient kid. We knew that this was behavior associated with his trauma but had no idea how to fix it. We told Kiki this story and he knew exactly what was going on. He had similar issues after Columbine, although he brushed his teeth there were things that he would not do. He explained to us that it was a form of regaining control of his life. That things went so bad on that day for them and that they had lost all control of their life on that day that they needed to get it back. For our youngest that meant being in control of his brushing. He didn’t have a lot he could control at this time but he felt this was something he could. So Kiki suggested we give him some control over his brushing, which we did. We allowed him to pick which bathroom to brush his teeth in and what time of day he would like to brush them. And overnight it was an immediate change. Kiki was right, he wanted control of his life again. This was just a small way in which he could do it.
All of these people and real life experiences lead us to starting A Sandy Hook Columbine Cooperative. Our relationship with Dr. Mears, “Carolyn”, had grown from that first meeting to a new level. Carly and I decided we needed to do something more and we really wanted to help others. So we invited some of our new friends over for a dinner and approached the subject of starting a foundation that will help others with trauma, specifically those in schools. Everyone was ready to go and we begin the journey to create something new and exciting.
Our journey to this point has just begun. We have a lot of work to do but we are making great progress.We have learned that there is a lot of other people that want to help us with this foundation and we are growing pretty quickly. But sadly we have also learned that there are many more people suffering from trauma than we ever imagined. We know now how important this mission is and it is bigger than just us. We are so excited about what we can do to help people from all walks of life and from all different trauma experiences.
Thank you for reading this blog and stayed tuned for more information about our progress as a foundation. We will share new information here, new relationships we develop, and our programs as they develop. We are really excited for our teacher program that we are creating with Douglas County School District. We believe it will be the model for all other school districts across the nation.