In Newtown, Connecticut, located on the hills in a serene quiet environment; you will find houses made of stones and wood. The town is still trying to come into terms with the shooting that occurred six years ago that led to the creation of Resiliency Center of Newtown.
At the center, you will find toys, painting materials, musical instruments and young children who survived the shooting that took place in Sandy Hook school. The center aims to engage the survivors and the victims of the ordeal in arts and music therapy to help them heal. The center is open to new people who need help.
Jennifer Sokira, a staff at the center, tells people that it is going to get over when the brain gets ready. The center began through a federal grant. She adds to say that as children are growing to become teenagers and start attending colleges, they will need to overcome trauma. Traumatic grief is evident in every day’s life of residents of Newtown.
Grief was felt again after Dr. Jeremy Richman committed suicide. The 49 years old doctor was liked by many in the area. He worked as an activist and a neuroscientist. His daughter, Avielle was among the children that died at Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Avielle died aged 6 in 2012 amongst 19 other first grade students at the school.
Avielle’s father began brain research as an honor to her daughter and also to understand the causes of violent acts. He wanted to bring a change in a world where people know much about the oceans and the space but know very little about the brain.
His pain and strength could only be understood by Newtown parents who knew the pain of losing a child through violence. His death came as a shock to many raising fear of who else could be losing hope.
Like Richman, Scarlett Lewis had also lost her son Jesse aged 6 through the shooting. She said, “I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.”
After the death of Richman on March 25, two suicides followed closely in Florida. The victims were two survivor students of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that happened in 2018. Sydney Aiello committed suicide on 17th March aged 19. Her mother said that she was diagnosed with PTSD and also suffered from survivor’s guilt. The other student who had taken away her life had not yet been known.
Researchers said they are working to establish the relationship between trauma and suicide. They added that it is critical to check on people. People face trauma in different ways, there are those who get affected much, and they may have other risk factors.
Three weeks before his death, Richman had held a talk with Brene Brown. In attendance was Lewis who said that Richman insisted on the community’s importance of bearing the pain of families of the victims. Six years after the ordeal, people are still suffering and thinking about the incident. As a way of offering support, a local dog named Maggie visits the Resiliency Center to connect with the survivors. The town has put measures to avoid any more suicides.
The center offers guidance and counseling and also serving victims with refreshments like tea and bread while the residents provide solace. Trinity Episcopal Church created the sign “Open for Prayer” for the victims while the library across the street offers print materials for victims suffering from mental problems.
Richman and his wife were left without a child after the death of Avielle in 2012 until in 2017 when they welcomed two children. They have to explain to them why their elder sister is not with them.
Richman left his pharmaceutical job to launch the Avielle Foundation after the death of their child. It aims to encourage research on the causes of violence. He was also involved in community projects that aimed at distinguishing people suffering from the mental problem from healthy people.
Researchers said that the incidences of suicide had increased by 30 percent from1999 to 2017 due to less funding for brain research. One of the ways to help is through showing love and care, asking individuals questions about how they feel and listening to them.
It takes courage to comfort someone who is grieving, and it also poses a challenge of creating anxiety while offering support to trauma victims. For example, when Maggie comes to visit the school, students wonder if there is something terrible that is happening.
Maggie stays in King Lutheran Church where she was brought two days after the shooting. Survivors who were then first graders are now in their seventh grade. At the center, government funding has been declining as time goes by.
There is a gap in the town between people who lived there before the shooting and those who moved there after the incidence. Cortney Troccolla, a native of Newtown town, says it is a big gap to bridge.