Marshall County High School, My heart breaks for you.

Marshall County High School, My heart breaks for you. Last week your school experienced something horrific, something tragic, something you never imagined in your worst nightmares. January 24, 2018. This is a day you will never forget.

Whenever I hear about a shooting, which seems to be more and more frequently, it motivates me to write. I want to share with you what I learned after the Virginia Tech shooting. As I reflect back, I realize how young I was at the time. But you are even younger than I was.

Be cautious when people tell you how you should feel.  Many people like to tell us how we should feel.  But many of them didn’t experience what you experienced. You don’t have to you let these comments in.  Recognize that these people may be trying to help you, but they just don’t know how to help you.

Resilience on the outside doesn’t necessarily correspond to resilience on the inside.  People may tell you how strong they think you are, or maybe they tell you they are surprised that you are taking it so hard.  Either way, don’t let their assessment of you become your assessment of you.  I let other’s comments convince me that I was OK, and I didn’t realize I needed help.  Your gut will tell you know you are doing, and listen to it.

Going back to school will be hard, very hard. I was a junior at Virginia Tech when the shooting happened. During my senior year, I hated being in the classroom. I hated when books would drop and made a loud noise. I picked my seat strategically, depending on the room and what my escape plan was. I knew going back into the classroom was going to hard, I just didn’t realize how hard.

If you think you might need help, try counseling.  Prior to the Virginia Tech Shooting, I had never been to counseling. I didn’t know how it worked. You have to be honest with yourself and with your counselor about everything, even the things that you don’t think matter.  You have to trust your counselor with your most vulnerable feelings.  You have to show up to counseling, both physically and mentally.

Recovery isn’t just for those physically injured. We don’t always know when someone is struggling, since most of the time, we can’t see their pain.  After the Virginia Tech shooting, I didn’t know how to deal with my pain.  I thought recovery was for those that were shot. I didn’t realize that I was going to have my own recovery journey as well. Recovery requires addressing your emotions related to the shooting and regaining a sense of safety when in public. It’s easier said than done, so take it one step at a time.

Most of you are probably between fourteen and eighteen years old.  For many, this is probably life’s biggest hurdle for you so far. When we find ourselves going through a difficult time, we may feel trapped and unsure of how to continue on with life.  We can't go around the pain, but we have to work through it.  When we "work through" our uncomfortable feelings, we address them, not ignore them.  But be kind to yourself, and compassionate, and forgiving, as you figure it all out.