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Condolences to those affected by the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School

The Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT) and its international faculty sends its condolences to the families and community of Sandy Hook Elementary School and Newtown, CT. This tragedy affected all of us who have worked with survivors of extreme violence over the past 3 decades. We remain committed to serving our society at the time of crisis and are concerned for the mental health of affected families and first-responders six months down the road when natural attention has faded. At this time, HPRT can be called upon if necessary, to lend support.

Prof. Dr. Reverand Frederick J. Streets, an HPRT team member, former chaplain at Yale University has offered the following support:

Parents and other family members will struggle with what to tell their children/siblings regarding the horrific shooting event in Newtown, CT. The shooting was a horrible event.
Being together with other people at a time like this is an important source of support. Relying upon ones religious faith and participating in the life of that faith community by worshipping and praying together and reflecting upon the sacred writings of that tradition can bring immediate and over time long lasting relief of some of the emotional pain caused by trauma.

Parents should not hesitate to get information on the impact of trauma and help should they feel they need it for themselves and their children. Some further points about coping with this trauma:

1) Parents should reassure their children that they are safe.
2) Allow the child to talk about their feelings at any time they wish to. Children depending upon their age may express their feelings in their play and drawings.
3) Some children may have nightmares , want to cling to parents and they may be afraid to leave home and/or to go back to school. Parents should be very patient with their children and reassure them that they are safe.
4) Don’t be afraid to ask your child how they are feeling about what happen.
5) Children, parents, school teachers and staff across the state will identify with this event and may have some of the same reactions as those who were directly impacted by what happen in Newtown.
6) Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are having difficulty coping with what has happened.
It is also important for parents and other adults to take care themselves during such a stressful time. This will further enable them to be there for others.

Some may ask themselves where was G-d or why does G-d allows tragic events to happen. I believe that G-d has given us free-will. Christians are celebrating Advent and the coming of Christmas. Yet, within the first two years according to the story of the life of Jesus , King Herod ordered children up to two years old be killed. Such evil and violence has been with us for a long time. I think G-d cries when we inflict such suffering upon others. All of our religions remind us that evil will not prevail and that goodness and justice will triumph. We are all responsible for making this happen.

Frederick J Streets, former Chaplain of Yale University, is a member of the faculty at Yale Divinity School, a clinical social worker and Acting Pastor of the Dixwel Avenune Congregational Church, New Haven, CT.

Sandy Hook remains in our prayers.
Richard F. Mollica

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