The American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) is offering advice and support to people struggling to deal with the Newtown, Conn., tragedy that resulted in the deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Dr. Tim Clinton, president of the nearly 50,000-member AACC, shared with The Christian Post that family members of the shooter are likely traumatized by the situation, even as many unknown factors remain about the case.
Police say 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their Newtown home before shooting 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School and taking his own life. Peter Lanza, Adam's father, and Ryan, his older brother, both expressed shock after news of the shootings came out, and have been unable to explain what drove the 20-year-old to commit such violent acts.
"For Adam's father, the confusion, shock, and public stigma associated with the circumstances of his son's shooting rampage and subsequent suicide are beyond tragic. As many nationwide have rallied around the victims and their families, it is easy to overlook the shooter's family, including his older brother Ryan, his father Peter and extended family members. Understandably, the Lanzas are facing confusion, pain, and overwhelming emotions that are difficult for us to comprehend," Clinton told CP.
"Just as the victims' parents have questions, so Adam's family members are also left to ponder what led Adam to commit this act of unspeakable evil. Despite the ongoing investigation, many of these questions may never be answered. However, it is critical that we do not simply demonize Adam's family. Though necessary, the investigation and intrusion of the media only adds to the weight of that trauma, turning the Lanza's grief into a public spectacle."
The AACC has published a guide for parents looking to comfort their children in the wake of the tragedy and explain to them just what happened that fatal Friday in Newtown – a hard task as most adults around the country are still coming to terms with the tragedy and unable to explain it themselves.
The Christian counseling group has put out a list of six "T's" for helping children through trauma, and a press release explains how these concepts can be of great help. The six "T's" include: Togetherness, Touch and Tenderness, Talk, Truth, Triggers and Time.
"Our children are not immune to the darkness and brokenness of our world. We may think that if we ignore this incident, our kids won't know about it or feel the impact. Nothing could be further from the truth! Our kids need parents and teachers – those who have influence in their lives – to be emotionally present and invested, especially in moments like these," Clinton writes in the press release.
Amid the pain and confusion, Americans dealing with the tragedy have been looking for possible solutions in various ways.
A gun control debate has been waging between those intent on defending the Second Amendment and people's right to own weapons, and those saying that something needs to be done about the powerful automatic weapons used to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Others blame violent video games and movies for creating a culture that is desensitized to mass killings, and there are many questioning if and how such tragedies fit into God's plan.
The AACC president tells CP, however, that although society is moving forward in terms of technology, relationally people are more empty and lonelier than ever before.
"The pressure, pain, and pace of modern-day life are taking their toll on us as a nation," Clinton suggested. "The brokenness found in life, especially through the trauma of abuse, as well as in marriages and our closest relationships, can affect us in profound ways, including our relationship with God. The end result is that we often struggle with emotion regulation, and anger, sorrow, and confusion abound. The mind can be a very rich, fertile, beautiful, creative place; it can also turn very dark, evil, and turbulent. As we wrestle in everyday life, we are challenged constantly to 'take every thought captive' under the authority of Christ and 'renew our minds.'"
Clinton pointed out that a statistic that can't be ignored is that the vast majority of mass-scale shootings in America are enacted by young males – "they use more lethal, violent means," the counselor said.
Clinton suggested that the Newtown shooting appeared to be premeditated and was not a random act of violence - yet, something was triggered in that moment. "It seems that Lanza's actions could have been an act of revenge – trying to send a message or get even." Various reports have come out suggesting that the 20-year-old gunman was suffering from a number of mental health issues, although the investigation into the case continues.
Dr. Michael Lyles, Executive Board Member and Psychiatrist, added that more needs to be done to provide a safe and encouraging environment for people struggling with mental health to come forward and ask for help.
"This tragedy is a challenge to all of us who claim to know the ultimate 'Counselor' (Isaiah 9:6), who ran towards, not away from, people in pain. Are people who are in pain 'safe' to come out of their private suffering and be heard, loved and accepted where they are – not where we want them to be?"