Kindred souls in unimaginable grief
Columbine survivors tell Newtown families ‘over time, pain becomes less’

HEN 26 PEOPLE, including 20 children no older than 7, were killed by a gunman on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the news devastated an entire nation. Struck particularly hard by those events were the people who, 13½ years earlier, dealt with the violent chaos and tragedy of Colorado’s Columbine High School shootings that killed a dozen students and one teacher — and left many more injured and emotionally scarred. For some of them, the events in Connecticut conjured old pain and plastered on a new layer of grief for strangers nearly 2,000 miles away. They watched a community join them, as some have put it, in a club to which no one wants to belong. A number of those who experienced Columbine in 1999 and have lived with its repercussions have offered not only their condolences, but their encouragement and advice to a wounded Connecticut community. Some have done so through organized efforts such as The Rebels Project, which has sponsored a teddy bear drive that will also send personal correspondence to Newtown. Some have offered their thoughts here, in an attempt to pass along difficult lessons learned from living through a school shooting that forever changed their lives. ‰‰‰ Be prepared for and accept the stages of grief you will hear about, because it’s natural. Accept that you and others around you may grieve differently — and there’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t let it be a conflict. When the right time comes, bond with those other families, because nobody knows what you’ve been through like they do. Be prepared for some people who will say some insensitive things, because some people just don’t know how to handle you. Honor your child. And think — and I know this is hard to say early on, because you should grieve — but as you go on, think about what your child would want for your life. And being unable to get through this would not be what they would want. I really recommend seeing a grief counselor. Ministers and friends play a role, but I think you need that professional, third-party conversation. Because there may be things you won’t share with your friend or minister or priest. You need to put those things on the table and let them out. — Tom Mauser, Father of Daniel Mauser, who died at Columbine High School ‰‰‰


Special to the Register

By Kevin Simpson

Karl Gehring/The Denver Post

Rick Townsend, father of Columbine High School shooting victim Lauren Townsend, is participating in the Denver Post Postcards Project. He posed for a portrait at his home Dec. 20.

Having lived through the terrible pain that you are all now experiencing, we know that there are no words that will ease those intense, unrelenting waves of sorrow and unbelief. But regardless, know that Misty, Chris, and I, our nation, and so many others across the globe are grieving with you right now and will not let you journey alone. Though we will not touch that loved one’s face again in this life, know they will forever reside in our hearts and memories, and will still travel through life with us. Please take comfort in knowing that they knew you loved them without bounds. There are so many people who want to do something, to help in some aspect. Allow yourself to be open to all avenues of love, help and compassion — whatever good things people want to do. They come in all forms. When we lost Cassie, people fed us, reminded us they were still praying for us, that we were still on their minds and hearts. People cut our grass. People gave us resources. That allowed us an extra measure of freedom to really immerse ourselves in our grief, and then begin to work out of it. And the bottom line: As much as it hurts right now — and we know that feeling too well — it will get better. Life is going to get better. It’ll never be the same, but it is going to get better. Praying for you all, — Brad, Misty and Chris Bernall,

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Columbine High School teacher Lee Andres is in the music classroom Denver, Colo., Dec. 21. Family of Cassie Bernall, who died at Columbine High School ‰‰‰ I’m not sure what I’d say to you. I found out that sometimes it’s better for people to say nothing, because you’re so deep in pain that you don’t want to hear anything except something that brings your child back to you. Sometimes it’s just being there — a hand on the shoulder, a gentle hug, a glass of water, or a plate of food. Often there are no words that can help you feel better. But, if you were to ask me, I would offer this: Over time, the pain becomes less. Over time, although you’ll never forget, never get over it, you can move on. And although it seems so distant now, you will feel joy again. You need to take care of yourselves and the other kids in the family. Accept the support and love of family, friends, and community. It will help you heal and will help them as well.

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