Living AfterTrauma.

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NOTES OF ENCOURAGEMENT

LIVING AFTER SHARING:

The experience of sharing my story has been extremely rewarding.  I have gotten so much support and care.  When I first considered sharing my story publicly I was terrified to open up and be so vulnerable.  I was so worried about what people might say and think about it.  I felt like I could be judged and critiqued.  However, the responses I have gotten have validated what was a very difficult decision.  I have heard that people felt relieved after I spoke out because they felt like they couldn’t talk about the shooting or acknowledge it affected because so few of the survivors talked about it.  They felt like since none of the kids who got shot in the classroom said much about it that they didn’t have a right to talk about it themselves.  I am grateful that I have been able to make some people feel more comfortable talking about their emotional reaction to such a traumatic event.

After sharing my story I received some responses from people who said they felt guilty about the shooting.  I had a hard time understanding this.  It makes no logical sense.  The only person who is guilty of causing pain at Hubbard Woods School on 5/20/88 is Laurie Dann.  However, many others felt that they did something wrong.  People feel that they didn’t do enough.  They feel that they should have been killed instead of Nick.

It is interesting how quickly I dismiss these feelings as irrational in others considering how I have felt them myself in the past.  I have felt that guilt too; it’s often called “survivors guilt”.  This happens when people who were not killed in a traumatic event feel guilty that they were spared.  I know that I felt this strongly after I survived getting shot and my friend did not.  For me, resolving this guilt involved getting angry.  I found that allowing myself to get angry at the woman who shot me was healing.  For a long time I thought that I couldn’t get angry about the shooting because someone died and so I should just be happy that I survived.  I thought: “My life was spared, so why should I be angry?”  As I grew up, I realized how much getting shot affected me.  My childhood perception of being lucky to be alive changed.  In my late 20s I had to go into the hospital several times for painful intestine blockages related to my childhood gunshot wound surgery.  I also realized how much getting shot affected me emotionally.  I was becoming angry that what a stranger did to me hurt me.  I was angry that the guilty party killed herself and left a whole community to take on her guilt.  Expressing and understanding this anger helped me heal.  Just feeling guilt that I didn’t die kept me emotionally stuck.  I am sad that my friend died, but I do not feel that it was in any way my responsibility.  I was a second grader sitting in a classroom.

It makes me angry to hear how so many other people in the community that Laurie Dann terrorized feel guilty.  What a horrible thing.  Someone not only killed a child and injured several others, but caused decades of emotional pain to so many other innocent people.  What a travesty.  I am so angry at her for what she did.  She must have had no idea what she was doing.  Or if she did, that makes me so much angrier.  We do not deserve to feel guilt.  She does.  She did this.  We are the victims.  We are not responsible for her actions.  No one was prepared and no one should have been prepared.  There was no playbook for school shootings in 1988.  There didn’t have to be because they didn’t happen.

I have been touched by all the love and support I have received since sharing.  I hope that other people who were affected by the Hubbard Woods School shooting can feel love and support too.  The shooting was a terrible thing, but I hope that we can continue to heal from it.  I want those who feel guilty about the shooting to look at it for what it was.  It was something horrible done to us.  I urge anyone who is still hurting from this to get some help.  You do not need or deserve to suffer anymore.

A NOTE OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE SURVIVED A TRUAMA

I hope that you can read my story and find some sense of comfort.  I want you to know that you are not alone and that there is help available.  I urge you to take the help.  You do not have to, but it may make things easier.  I want you to honestly look at yourself and identify both you strengths and your vulnerabilities.  Accept yourself at the place that you are right now.  I feel that acceptance is much more productive than avoidance.  Accept your pain and acknowledge it; do not run from it.  View the world as bigger than just your life.  That your own need for comfort may be limiting you.  Your sole focus on surviving limits you from seeing so much beauty, love and care in the world.

There is a reason for why you act the way you do and that is because something terrible happened to you.  I want you to accept that.  That won’t be taken away, what happened happened and it hurt.  You can be angry, sad, scared, or anything else.  Do not disown your feelings.  Running from them only makes them more destructive.  Your feelings will not destroy you, avoiding them will.  Confronting them will strengthen you.  I urge you to contemplate if you are ready to try to move forward.  Moving forward is not forgetting the past.  It is simply looking at your life and thinking about if you want more.  You can have more.  It is out there.  All you need to do is trust again.  What happened to you made this hard to do, but do it anyway.  Begin to trust in yourself and others; push yourself to do it.  Maybe start with a therapist or family member.  Be open and honest with him or her.  Tell them if you are cynical of them.  Tell them if you are scared.  You are in control.   You can stop if you need to.  But try to tell your story.  Try to understand how what happened to you affected you.  Begin to accept yourself, particularly your feelings.  Your feelings are not wrong even if they don’t make logical sense.  Express them and then you and your therapist can begin to understand them.  This will began the process of you moving out of survival mode.

About Peter

Hi, my name is Peter Munro. I live in Chicago with my wife Lilly and daughter Grace. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Rush University Medical Center in the department of psychiatry at the Rush Day Hospital. The Rush day hospital is an outpatient treatment program for adults with mood and anxiety disorders. Prior to working at Rush, I worked at a Chicago non-profit social service agency called One Hope United where I was a MultiSystemic Therapy (MST) therapist. As an MST therapist I worked in the field and primarily with teens that were on probation, living in disadvantaged Chicago neighborhoods and struggling to keep out of trouble. I attended graduate school at Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago and undergraduate at University of Southern California. Prior to graduate school I worked in the department of psychology at Northwestern University where I did program evaluation research mostly for Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. I also worked at a residential treatment center called Allendale where I was on the floor of a unit with teens, many of them DCFS wards, who had behavioral and psychological issues.

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The goal of this organization is to help those who have experienced a trauma heal. We want to bring people together to foster understanding and care. If you are interested, Peter is excited to share his experience in person and has some availability for speaking engagements and interviews.

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