Last night I went to bed fretting over how much laundry I have been ignoring. It seemed important at the time. Last night Constable Derek Walter Bond was probably doing similar regular things. He probably talked to his loved ones on the phone. He probably ate dinner. He probably cleaned up his dishes and went to work.
Last night I went to bed worried about about how my son was going to get up at 5:00 am for hockey and thinking about what a wreck he was going to be the rest of the day. It seemed like a big deal. I have had a rough week. Last night Constable David Wynn likely said good bye to his family and went to work not thinking about the sacrifice he makes everyday. He probably wasn’t thinking about the danger his job puts him in. That’s the thing about heroes. They usually don’t even think about it.
This morning I woke up, still worried about the laundry, my son and what the day had in store. That is when I heard the news that Constable David Wynn and Auxiliary Constable Derek Walter Bond were shot in my small community. They were shot so I could worry about the everyday things in my life. They were shot so I didn’t have to worry about being safe. These heroes walk among us everyday.
I can’t stop thinking of their families. How last night they likely weren’t worried about their loved ones when they sent them off to work. I don’t think families can face that potential every day. I imagine they stuff the reality of that danger deep inside them. Their families are also heroes. Today I can’t stop thinking about what the families are enduring because of me and my family’s need for safety.
Again our community is struck by a tragedy of enormous weight. This time in the form of what seems like a senseless act of violence. Some of you will know the families affected. Some of you may have seen it happen. Many of us will be connected to this in some way. Our community suffers when something like this happens. No one is unaffected.
I am feeling helpless in the middle of all this. So I am doing the only thing I know to do. I’m writing and hoping that in some small way it can help. Here are some things to keep in mind while our community struggles to deal with the aftermath of these tragic events.
1. You are safe. At least you are just as safe as you were yesterday, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Violent crime is actually declining across Canada but because of our Social Media world it feels like it is happening all the time. Our police officers do a good job of keeping danger as far away from us as possible. So despite how close this feels, you are safe.
2. It is okay to be emotional. Even if this tragedy hasn’t impacted you directly, many of us will feel shaken up. It affects us all indirectly. Chances are there are only a few degrees of separation between these events and someone we know. We have all driven down that road, been in or around the casino or near that golf course. It is okay to feel strange about that.
3. It is okay to not be emotional. We all deal with things differently. The trick is to not judge people who don’t react the way you do. We never know what other people have been through. Their reactions are an accumulation of their past and their present reality. This will be a big emotional deal for some, for others they won’t skip a beat. So much depends on who we are and where we come from. There is no right way to react.
4. Try to avoid blame, at least for now. It is easy to start pointing fingers at the mentally ill, the officers, government or even extremist groups. Anger is a normal reaction but it often is just a diversion from sadness. It can damage relationships, put up walls and create many unintended consequences that have a long term impact. When you have all the information, then decide what you think and if you need to take some sort of action.
5. Trauma triggers trauma. If you have had any trauma in your past then reading and hearing about these events can trigger your feelings about the past, sometimes without you even realizing it. Take it easy on yourself and get help if you struggle to cope. Talking about what you are feeling is an important first step.
6. Support each other. There is no doubt there are many people in the community that know and love people directly affected by today’s events. There are no words to make this right. The only option you have is to be present to them or not. They don’t need your words. They just need someone to walk beside them in this awful journey. So don’t worry about saying or doing the right thing. You probably will screw it up in one way or another. They will forgive you if you are genuine. Just be present.
7. Don’t forget the kids. While we often feel it is our job to protect our children, it is not. Our jobs as parents and as a community is to prepare our kids for the world. A colleague said to me the other day: “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child”. This sort of thing will happen throughout their life. They need to be taught how to deal with it.
When you are ready, talk to your kids about what happened. Here are some tips for talking to kids about tragedy that I wrote after Thomas Wedman, a 6-year-old boy died in our community a year and a half ago. They will hear about today’s events. My hope is that they hear it from someone that can reassure them rather than a classmate on the park at school. Kids need to feel safe, loved and heard. And then they need to play.
8. Get it out. Talk, draw, run or whatever you do to get the feelings and thoughts out of your head.
9. Know when to stop. Sometimes we have to stop talking, reading and watching the events unfold. Our body and brain need a break from the intensity otherwise we may find ourselves traumatizing ourselves. Vicarious trauma is a real threat when we start to process events at such depth that our bodies and brains start to react like the trauma has happened to us.
10. Say the words. It is hard to find meaning in tragedy. Sometimes the only thing that we can do is accept the lesson about the frailty of life and senselessness of the rat race we often get caught up in. Tell the people in your life you love them. Tell the RCMP how much we appreciate what they do. Make sure everyone knows how important they are in your life. These events aren’t meaningless if we learn from them.
Tonight my son is tired and the laundry still isn’t done. I can’t think of anything more pointless to worry about than that. I am safe because of people like Constable David Wynn and Auxiliary Constable Derek Walter Bond. My energy is better spent thinking of them and their families. I am humbled by their sacrifices. I hope I am worthy of such an immeasurable gift.