Helping the Grieving Parents in Newtown, CT: When a Stranger’s Child Dies
I’ve logged into WordPress to write a post about the nightmarish, horrific murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut several times. I wanted to write about how as a grieving mom this made me replay the events of my child’s death, or how devastated I was, but the words never came, because this isn’t my story and it isn’t Cora’s Story.
I want to help those families so badly, but didn’t know how. I still don’t know how, but I know I’ve got to try, and have to share my thoughts about helping grieving strangers based on my own experience.
You might be wondering if you should do something, or if you’d be imposing since most likely none of you reading this personally knew any of the families. Before Cora died, I would have leaned to the side of not doing anything, although I would have wanted to do something, I think I would have felt it not my place.
When my daughter died, I got cards in the mail from perfect strangers who read my daughter’s obituary in the newspaper. I asked online strangers to share her story, and they did in amazing ways. Of course it didn’t make the pain go away. It didn’t make it better, but it was comforting.
It made me feel like my daughter was special (she was). It made me feel like people would remember her.
I’ll give the same disclaimer I gave in my eBook, “When Your Friend’s Baby Dies” about helping a friend through loss, not all grieving families are the same, we don’t want the same things. I’d never in a gazillion years speak for these families, I can just tell you what helped me and what I’ve observed through friendships and discussions with hundreds if not thousands of other grieving mothers.
I wrote that short eBook after seeing so many other loss mothers hurt when their friend’s weren’t there and after noticing how hard it was to know what to do for a grieving mom on the other side of the page.
Since this tragedy, I’ve seen so many posts about wanting to help, but nothing comprehensive about how to help.
How to help strangers grieving the loss of their child:
1. Send a card.
An address has been widely circulating on Facebook for the elementary school, however keep in mind there has been no official release from the school that they have the staff necessary to process the cards. The address for the elementary school in case you decide to send a card there:
Sandy Hook Elementary School
12 Dickenson Drive
Sandy Hook, CT 06482
Another alternative is to send to the funeral home with the funeral home’s address and Attn: Family of (child you’re writing). To find these addresses, look for newspaper announcements about the funeral homes hosting the funerals. Track down the address and write the family via the funeral home. I think that’s fairly common practice, and staff there are used to passing on letters to the family.
What should you write?
In a moment of being perfectly frank, 99 percent of the cards we got after Cora died were accompanied with at least a few paragraphs in hand written, genuine sentiment. I have to admit, the few that were just general sympathy cards signed with the person’s name scribbled at the bottom burned more than they helped. I know that might seem harsh, but it made it seem like the sender felt compelled to send, didn’t care and didn’t have any thoughts beyond those provided by Hallmark.
If you are taking a moment to write, say something, even if you aren’t sure it’s the right something, even if your spelling is awful and your handwriting is hard to read.
I’m non-Christian and wasn’t offended by general Christian statements like “I’m praying for you,” but keep in mind not all of these families share your religion.
I’ll always remember the people that took the time to send something with the card, like a paper Christmas ornament, book mark or drawing of Cora’s name. I was extremely touched, so you might consider taking the time to include something like that.
I do have some mailing addresses for the families of some of the children that passed away that are being circulated, and will update this with more so send me them if you have them. Keep in mind that after tragedy, the scammers find it the perfect time to make some blood money. I’ll do my best to verify addresses here.
Letters and cards can be sent to the family via Friends of Maddie. For the address and details about sending letters, read this Facebook note.
Emilie Parker Memorial
PO Box 12751
Ogden, UT 84412-2751
2. Send Money
While I don’t know the financial situation of any of the families affected, I do know that losing a child is expensive. I’m hoping people step up to cover the funerals, but even beyond those costs, it’s a huge hit. Donations will allow the family to spend more time at home before getting back to work and cover all those costs people never think about, like buying something to wear to the funeral, which you’ll probably never be able to look at again and throw in the back of the closet. I’ve seen people write that the town is “well off.” However, even in the richest communities, there are families that struggle. And personal tragedy like this can financially hit even families that are well off.
Keep in mind, again, that the scammers are in full force. Donate to personal PayPal’s at your own risk. I’ve vetted everything to the best of my ability on this post.
As benefit funds are announced, I’ll post them here.
The United Way of Western Connecticut set up a benefit fund and says all monies donated will go to assisting the families. Follow this link to donate.
Sandy Hook School Support Fund
c/o Newtown Savings Bank
39 Main Street, Newtown CT 06470
Or, checks may be dropped off at any Newtown Savings Bank branch location - http://www.nsbonline.com/about-us/locations.aspx. For questions please call 800-461-0672.
To donate online, go to https://newtown.uwwesternct.org/
The Newton Memorial Fund, as reported by CNN, is accepting donations of money and time.
So far, I have information for these families:
From the Facebook page: “Instructions on the Emilie Parker Memorial Account at America First Credit Union (account #5001359). For AFCU members making a transfer, select the Savings as the type of account, and the last name on the account is Parker. For non AFCU members, the AFCU routing number is 324377516. This account has been shared by several Utah media outlets and can be trusted. To donate via PAYPAL: Use the email – firstname.lastname@example.org.”
2. Speak Their Names, Write Their Names, Remember Them
I was surprised after Cora’s death at my immediate need to make sure she was remembered. After talking to many other loss mothers, I found it something others felt too. I wanted everyone to know and say Cora’s name. Again, I cannot speak for all these families, but do know that honoring my child is something I so wanted.
Take time to really read all of the names. Light a candle in their memory. Post it on your social networks. The families may or may not see. They might see it months or even years from now, but the energy you send out to those families will bring healing to you as well.
In your cards and on social media, tell the families how their children impacted you. Even from tragedy, can grow love, light and hope.
I’m remembering and honoring:
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine F. Hsu, 6
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison N. Wyatt, 6
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Rachel Davino, 29
3. Do Good In Their Name
Take a moment to do a random act of kindness in the names of each of the murdered children and adults. This way, their love never dies.
4. Contribute to other projects remembering, honoring and helping those affected:
This nonprofit group is sending copies of the book, “Water Bugs and Dragonflies” to all the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School and is asking for monetary donations to buy the books as well as copies of the book. For details, see the nonprofit’s Facebook page.
This list will be updated as new projects are announced. Please check back.
5. Laugh, play and love your children
Don’t give your children extra hugs today, vow to be extra patient every day. Not that you could possibly love your children more, but perhaps you might realize that the tough parenting moments really aren’t so tough after all.
I forgot the very most important thing you can do, remember. Show your support in the weeks and months to come. In a few weeks or months, we won’t think about the shooting every day, but the parents will. That’s when they’ll need your cards, donations and support more than ever, from my experience, I can’t speak from these families.
The media will go away, or so at this point we can hope.
Write a reminder to send a card six months from now, follow the families on social media and pay attention to what they’re asking for. This is one wound time does little to heal.
I’ve struggled some with this post, first all grieving parents are a bit different and second because I don’t want to interject myself into their pain, which I cannot even imagine. In the end, I still believe that reaching out to grieving strangers is the compassionate thing to do, but tread lightly.