We have seen another elementary school shooting, more young children and educators died needlessly, and so many parents of special needs children are asking themselves, “What if this happened to my child? Would they understand? Would they be accounted for and safe?” If you’re thinking this, you’re not alone. It’s okay not to be okay.
These are, unfortunately, normal questions to be asking in these situations. So, I’m giving you some tips to take care of yourself as you grieve from this latest tragedy, and feel less powerless as you navigate parenting your child with Autism in what can be a terrifying world.
Tune in this week as I share how to move through your difficult emotions after a senseless tragedy. I’m sharing why we’re not here to try and feel positive about things we know are awful, why you can’t action your way out of fear and grief in the long term, and how to acknowledge your own pain and support yourself with compassion through these heartbreaking times.
You are listening to episode 14 of The Autism Mom Coach, School Shootings and Special Needs Children: Would my child be safe? Another school shooting and you are asking yourself, what if this happened to my child or children? Would my special needs child understand? Would they be accounted for? Would they be safe? If this is you, you are not alone. It is okay not to be okay. In this episode I am going to share with you some tips for taking care of yourself as you grieve this latest tragedy.
Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach, a podcast for moms who feel overwhelmed, afraid, and sometimes powerless as they raise their child with autism. My name is Lisa Candera. I’m a certified life coach, lawyer, and most importantly I’m a full-time single mom to a teenage boy with autism. In this podcast I’ll show you how to transform your relationship with autism and special needs parenting. You’ll learn how to shift away from being a victim of your circumstances to being the hero of the story you get to write. Let’s get started.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the podcast. I hope this finds you doing well but if you are not doing well, if you are not okay that is okay too. And let’s face it, it’s perfectly understandable, another shooting at an elementary school. More young children and educators dead. As horrifying as it is, it is not the first, or the fifth, or likely the last time we will face news lie this. With each school shooting I go back to Sandy Hook, the first shooting involving children so young, 20 first graders and six educators.
My son was in kindergarten at the time and the news just shook me to my core. I still remember the story of the teacher who hid her students in a closet telling the shooter that they were in another room. I imagined those first graders huddled close together staying quiet and hoping the shooter would leave the room. And my mind went to there is no way my son would have gotten into that closet in the first place or sat quietly for any length of time. How would he ever be safe in the event of an active shooter in his school?
If this is where your mind went, you were not alone. I have had several conversations with clients and I have seen many, many posts from special needs parents wondering the same thing. Would my child understand what was going on? Would they be able to hide? Would they understand that they needed to be quiet and still? So let’s just take a moment and pause, if pausing feels uncomfortable it is probably because you are in a stress response.
When we are in a stress response we want to move. We want to take action. This is our biology doing exactly what it is designed to do, keep us safe. When our nervous system is in a fear response, our adrenalin goes up and our rational thinking goes right out the window. We become hypervigilant to threats, constantly scanning for danger and anticipating it around every corner. So what do we do? We consume all of the news, we try to find out as much information as we can.
Maybe we look up the statistics, 50 million school aged children, about less than a one percent chance that a school shooting would happen at my school and that my child would be a victim. We rationalize, well, my child is more likely to be harmed going to or from school than at school, or she has just as much chance of getting hit by lightening or eaten by a shark. We email teachers, principals, school administrators, we ask about ALICE trainings and lockdown procedures.
And some of us, we even contemplate homeschooling. And maybe some of these actions provide a measure of comfort for a period of time. But they miss the mark when it comes to the thing we’re avoiding, and that is processing the heavy emotions we are feeling, the fear, the grief, the anger. But guess what? We can’t think our way or act our way out of grief and fear. There is no thought work solution for this, at least not one that I teach.
Thought work is not about feeling good about tragedy or rationalizing it. It is about being aware of what you are thinking and honoring the feelings that you’re having. And then moving through them, not past them. Of course you always get to choose what you think. And when it comes to a senseless tragedy like this, I will always choose to think this is terrible and to feel sad and to feel angry.
We also can action our way out of fear and grief. Yes, we can take action, like calling the teachers, talking to other parents, or working to pass legislation, or safety requirements, or whatever it is that you want to do. And while this action may ease your fear and pain a bit, it’s not the same as processing the emotion. So as uncomfortable as it is, the way forward is through.
I’m going to give you some thoughts about how to process these heavy feelings of grief, fear and sadness. First, start with recognizing, recognize your own pain and offer yourself support. This is called self-compassion, or grace, it looks like I am feeling heartbroken and it is okay. I am feeling devastated and this is a normal human emotion. Of course I feel sad about this, anyone would. Of course I feel afraid, anyone would.
Second, resourcing yourself. I want you to think of resourcing yourself as anything you can do to bring yourself into a present feeling of safety and security. Maybe this is lying on your bed, maybe it is sitting next to a loved one or a pet, maybe it is picturing someone in your life, past or present with whom you feel safe, secure and grounded. Maybe it is deep breathing or putting your hand on your heart, whatever you can do or visualize that brings you a feeling of internal safety. Then with this resource in mind or at your side, ride the wave.
I talked about this in episode eight, this is the process of allowing and processing your emotions, letting them in, feeling them and processing them through your body. Now, this does not mean you need to do it all at once. You can do a little at a time and if it becomes too overwhelming, take a break, return to your resource and remind yourself that you are safe. The work of becoming present with the emotions and processing them allows you to shift from being stuck in the emotion to moving through it.
Finally, we end where we started with tons of self-compassion. This is hard and it is okay to feel the way you do. It is okay not to be okay right now.
Alright, that is all I have for this episode, be sure to be kind to yourself this week. It matters. Talk to you next week.
Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you want more information or the show notes and resources from the podcast, visit theautismmomcoach.com. See you next week.