Processing Senseless Tragedy from a Mom's Perspective

Worried womanWritten by
Megan Bergfeld, LCSW, ACM-SW
Clinical Counselor, Work Life Connections


“Have you heard from the school?” 

“Are your kids ok” 

“I just saw there was a school shooting in Nash and praying it wasn’t your girls’ school.” 

These are the messages I found on my phone after I finished a session with a client on Monday morning. I hadn’t seen the news. I didn’t know what was happening. Why would the school be contacting me? WERE my kids ok? WAS it their school?  

I was working from home just down the street from my first grader’s school and 3 miles from my 5-year-old’s preschool. I started throwing on my shoes as I called my daughters’ dad in a panic for more information – Google couldn’t move fast enough for me. When he confirmed it was NOT one of our schools, a wave of emotion washed over me so swiftly that I bent over double at the waist, let my head hang between my knees, and sobbed.  

Those tears held so much, a mixture of feelings I have struggled to put into words. I often work with my clients on identifying, naming, and owning emotions, so I've spent a lot of time pondering this for myself. I finally found "my emotion" this afternoon in Brene Brown's book Atlas of the Heart. I wanted to share it with you.  

"Anguish is an almost unbearable and traumatic swirl of shock, incredulity, grief, and powerlessness." 

Brown goes on to say, "Shock and incredulity can take our breath away, and grief and powerlessness often come for our hearts and our minds. But anguish, the combination of these experiences, not only takes away our ability to breathe, feel, and think - it comes for our bones. Anguish often causes us to physically crumple in on ourselves, literally bringing us to our knees or forcing us all the way to the ground.”   

Continuing, "The element of powerlessness is what makes anguish traumatic. We are unable to change, reverse, or negotiate what has happened. And even in those situations where we can temporarily reroute anguish with to-do lists and tasks, it finds its way back to us."   

Naming my emotion doesn't change anything about what happened that day, but it has allowed me to shed some light and meet myself with compassion in an otherwise dark and confusing place.    

If you find yourself trying to make sense of this senseless tragedy, I would be honored to help you identify and name your own emotion. The Work/Life Connections-EAP team is here for you. We are parents, healthcare workers, and Nashvillians just like you. Let’s walk through the darkness together.    

Call 615-936-1327 to schedule your free and confidential appointment today.