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12:45 PM

Coping and Healing After Violence Invades A Community

Poway. New Zealand. Sri Lanka. Pittsburgh. Charleston. 

When gun violence invades a house of worship, how can a community cope and heal from the trauma? 

Jason Weiner, BCC, senior Rabbi and director of the Spiritual Care Department at Cedars-Sinai, says it’s understandable and normal for many to feel too scared to attend their place of worship. But the answer, he says, cannot be to stop attending services.

“The only solution we have to violence is to bring light to the darkness,” said Weiner. “We cannot back down and stop worshiping, because that will only make the violence increase. Now is the time to be a vessel of light, increase unity, be kind and better educate people on the impact of hatred and the importance of diversity.”

And while Weiner hopes the nation has learned lessons from its history, he says hatred is nothing new.

“Hatred shows patterns and repetition, and that can be very worrying. Although we have to open our eyes and be realistic that Germany never thought the Holocaust would happen, we should instead focus on coming together and fighting hate through education, encouragement and community building.”

When having these conversations about education and diversity, it’s important to consider including your children, suggests Suzanne Silverstein, MA, APR, founding director of the Cedars-Sinai Psychological Trauma Center and the Share & Care program.

“If your child is old enough and emotionally mature, typically about second grade, it’s important to have open dialogue about these types of tragedies so they don’t hear the news from someone else,” said Silverstein. “If you don’t talk to them, another student, teacher, parent, the news or social media will.”

But before you begin talking, Silverstein recommends tailoring your message to your child’s specific concerns.

“First ask, what did you hear and what are your concerns?” says Silverstein. “Understanding their viewpoint of the situation and what scares them the most is extremely crucial to the conversation. Many times, a child’s concerns are very different than what an adult would assume.”

Silverstein also stresses that all children and young adults should always be encouraged to tell an adult if they are concerned about something their peer said or did. “Let your child know they can share a concern anonymously with an adult. Never encourage them to keep it to themselves.”