How We Process the Texas Shooting

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Biracial female psychologist hands holding palms of millennial woman patient

There is no right way to grieve the violent, bloody killing of 19 elementary school children.

If you are a functioning human, then in the past day you’ve probably swung from shock, to sadness, to frustration and anger—and then back again. You’re not alone. Those of us at KQED Arts & Culture have been navigating the same storm.

How are you doing? If you just need a place to vent, cry, lament, or try to make sense of the senseless, send us an email and let us know how you’re doing. We promise one of us will get back to you, human to human.

In the meantime, we've been processing the news out of Texas, and its all-too-familiar news cycle—and finding sources of support, comfort, and determination.

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Sad Girl Hiding Face

Shutting Down and Feeling Drained

I have to admit, I shut down. Like, completely. I had to stop working, I took a late afternoon nap, and I had a dream that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was in his car next to me, on the phone, rebutting demands to advance gun control legislation with facts that were patently untrue.

The dream felt real, because, well, it essentially is. Our nightmare of mass shootings is not going to stop until Capitol Hill takes action; until NRA-backed senators put human life above money; until we stop hearing “cast your vote in November” and start hearing about the lawmakers that we’ve already voted for doing their job, and protecting our kids.

I woke up from my dream and put on Archie Shepp’s “Damn If I Know,” a searing cry from a jazz master who turned 85 yesterday and got the worst birthday present imaginable, 19 children, bodies mangled in the classroom, dead, dead, dead. When my daughter came home from elementary school, my job as a dad was to hug her with all the love in the world. But I am so, so tired of this, and believe me, I was almost too drained to even greet her at the door.—Gabe Meline, Senior Editor

Utilizing Anger as a Productive Fuel

I’ve written guides for avoiding doomscrolling and practicing self-care through tragedy. But after two years of COVID, and 27 school shootings in the United States this year alone, I find it cruel and perverse that we repeatedly need to learn to cope with escalating, inhumane violence. I’m tired of elected officials offering thoughts and prayers or encouraging us to vote. Please actually do something. Getting out to the ballot box isn’t enough—this situation calls for direct action, in order to make this human rights crisis impossible for those in power to ignore. It also calls for an entire examination of our political system and the powerful influence of special-interest groups like the NRA. If you’re full of pent-up rage, channel it into action. Make protest signs, call your legislators, get creative. Rage can be productive fuel for change.—Nastia Voynovskaya, Associate Editor

Sharing a Shroud of Grief

I spent last night going to a show in August Hall with a dear friend who lost her husband suddenly two years ago. She's still in that stage of grief where it hangs on her like a dark shroud, even when she's not talking about it. I recognize the shroud, because it took me five years to emerge from under my own after my husband died in 2013. My friend and I didn't talk about Uvalde's elementary school slaughter. Instead, we held each other close, told each other we loved each other, and went home early.

Before I went to sleep, I read the details. I looked closely at the teachers' smiles, and the children's faces brimming with promise. I tried to imagine the unimaginable—the agony of the parents. That first day is like an out-of-body experience. Coroners and police must be spoken to, forms must be signed, family and friends must be informed, funeral homes must be called. And then you must go back to your deafeningly silent home, and begin the process of learning to live with a metaphorical shroud where your person used to be.

Deep grief leaves you feeling cut off from everyone else. But the truth is that too many people are living under the same shroud. In 2020, 19,384 Americans were shot to death by other Americans. And 4,300 of them were children and teenagers. Picture five sold-out shows at August Hall, each populated exclusively by young people. Now picture absolutely no one coming home from any of them. That’s the reality America’s youth is currently living, year over year over year, and America’s chaperones are doing absolutely nothing about it.—Rae Alexandra, Staff Writer

Demanding Immediate Legislation from Lawmakers

I first heard the news on Slack when the victims were thought to be just two children. I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to pause work and doomscroll through the imminent Twitter storm. Before letting the news hit me, before even knowing what the news was, I scrambled to gather resources to add to the conversation. I did this almost on autopilot—this has happened many times before.

These included archival stories we’re all too familiar with from these recurring atrocities. “Songs We Listen to in Times of Tumult and Distress.” “9 Helpful Things To Know About Grief That Nobody Warns You About.” Insightful, poignant resources that I hope will help others. But I haven’t yet let them help me. Personally, I’m not ready to talk about grief. I’m ready for immediate action to curb this horrific and ceaseless domestic terrorism. If those in power don't effectuate gun reform and pull out all stops to cease the murders of children, Black families, Asian churchgoers and other innocent lives, then I never want to hear a politician lament their “thoughts and prayers” again.

I want to boycott companies who support the NRA; I want to advocate against gun lobbyists, corrupt lawmakers and the military-industrial complex that promotes military-grade gun ownership and enables more lives to be taken. At a time when the imminent repeal of reproductive rights is threatening lives, and gun rights continue to take them, we need to ask what freedom truly means, and then fight for it.—Justin Ebrahemi, Digital Engagement Manager

Becoming Numb to Constant Catastrophe

Columbine happened on my birthday. I was in school with other high school students, gossiping, passing notes in class, when out of nowhere, an assembly was called to explain what happened. There were tears everywhere, guidance counselors, teachers holding students, and parents picking up their kids early to hold them close. That was almost 25 years ago. Nothing has changed.

That's actually not true—massacres like this are far more common now. I have young nieces and nephews for whom a school shooting, or an open slaughter of people at grocery stores, movie theaters or even churches is not shocking. We grieve and mourn because we are helpless. We hear the same condolences and apologies from those who could prevent these killings but don't. We compartmentalize because tragedies like this happen weekly.

The most terrifying part for me is that I can have tears in my eyes for the sadness I feel, and then a few minutes later I'll continue on as normal. I am becoming numb to the constant sense of catastrophe. You are not alone in your confusion of how to process what’s happening. You are not alone if you feel everything, and recoil in the fetal position. You are not alone if you feel nothing, and go about your day scrolling through posts and articles numb and without reaction. Simply put: you are not alone.—Ria Garewal, Engagement Producer


Resolving In Our Sadness To Take Action

I lost a son to illness nearly 30 years ago. When it’s your child, you don’t stop grieving; you grow with it.

But when something like the Uvalde school massacre happens, when 19 young lives are erased, snuffed out, as in so many school massacres before, I cannot access my grief. And while I ache for the families, knowing, as I do, just some of what they are going through, I can only rage against a society that will not act to stop this killing.

In our sadness, we must all do something. Even if in the immediate term, it's only an email or text to your senators (or all 50 senators) demanding a vote on legislation stalled in the Senate requiring background checks for gun purchases. Let them know you won’t be numbed into submission. And that we will not abandon our children to gun violence.

Then, if you haven’t already, open your arms wide to your grief.—David Markus, Executive in Charge

Resources for Grief and Trauma

How to Talk With Kids After a Traumatic Event (KQED)

From Pain to Purpose: 5 Ways to Cope in the Wake of Trauma (NPR)

War, Crisis, Tragedy: How to Talk With Kids When the News is Scary (MindShift)

Where to Find Affordable, Culturally Competent Therapy in the Bay Area (KQED)

A Watch Guide for When the Waters Get Deep (KQED)

KQED’s Brian Watt Talks With Warriors Coach Steve Kerr About Preventing Gun Violence (Commonwealth Club)

How to Help

Donate to Texas Elementary School Shooting Relief (GoFundMe)

Fund for Families of Victims and Survivors of the Uvalde School Shooting (League of United Latin American Citizens)

Uvalde School District Fund for Families (USD)