Transforming Fear in the Aftermath of School Shootings

Compiled for public use by Laura Simms.

The Healing Story Alliance is grateful to Diane Wyzga for sending these resources collected by Morgan Adams. They are for those working with children and parents affected by the Connecticut tragedy. The increasing senseless  violence culminating in the terrifying events that occurred yesterday affect all of us.  You may find this information to be of use. Please share it with others.



Visit the Healing Story Alliance website where you will find stories, suggestions and commentaries about the use of story in times of strong emotion and crisis.  For full versions of 36 tales go to

Story Circles and Listening – simple instructions prepared by Laura Simms

Reading:  The Way of Council by Jack Zimmerman; The Soul of Education by Rachael Kessler and the PassageWorks Institute – The Engaged Classroom.

One of the most powerful tools we have is to listen.  If you are in a school or organization with children, a potent and safe way to let children express their feelings is by creating a Story Circle.

  1. Set up guidelines: speak from the heart in the first person; avoid criticism of others; listen without responding; and keep what you have to say as short as possible.
  2. Choose a “talking stick” or what you would like to pass around. It could be a seashell, a flower or something that everyone decides on and makes before the circle.
  3. Each person has a chance to speak – going around in the circle.  If you do not want to speak, please hold the object and offer either a prayer or a moment of silence before passing it on.
  4. Follow the circle with a circle of wishes for those who were harmed, their families and friends and even the victims and their family.



This is the last paragraph of a short but potent article, How I Healed from a School Shooting, in Elephant Journal (out of Boulder, Colorado) written by Cassandra Smith who was present in Columbine 13 years ago.

No one is going to be able to explain what happened today in a way that makes it okay. We will not find comfort by learning the shooter’s motivations, and we will not find comfort in screaming for stricter gun control.

We will find comfort in each other.

We can heal by grieving together, talking together and providing an ear for anyone who is hurting. We find comfort in knowing our feelings of grief and confusion are not only our own.

I know I will never fully understand what made the young men at Columbine or Sandy Hook decide to take the lives of innocent people. But I also know that I do not need to understand in order to heal. We heal by showing our suffering to others and giving others space to suffer with us.

Together, we can and will get through this.

Please share any additional resources that you feel may be helpful as comments or contact the Resources, Research and Reviews host: Mary K. Clark.


12/15/12 – Edited – mkc
12/18/12 – Edited to add Karen Chace’s resource and Cassandra Smith’s quote – mkc
1/4/13 – Edited to add Lorna Czarnota’s PDF resource – mkc
2/9/13 – Edited to add NAEYC resource page – mkc
4/4/13 – Edited to fix duplicate links – mkc





8 thoughts on “Transforming Fear in the Aftermath of School Shootings”

  1. A friend of mine advised me of the following resource:

    Brene Brown’s blog:

    There you will find additional resources plus the following quote from Mr. Rogers:

    “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

    And by chance I found an article entitled, “Mr. Rogers’ advice for talking about tragedy with your children” Please see:

  2. Thank you to storyteller, Allison Cox at for a new resource.

    One caution: the article referenced is meant to stimulate perspective and understanding, however some of the comments on the site might be considered objectionable (content, tone and language).

    The article, “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” by Liza Long, gives the perspective of a woman who feels she has traveled in the shoes of Adam Lanza’s mother.

    You may view it at:

  3. Thank you to storyteller, Laura Simms for another helpful resource:

    Colin McEnroe’s interview with John Woodall entitled, “Coping With An Unimaginable Loss: Resilience After Newtown.”

    Woodall “is a psychiatrist whose work has taken him to Bosnia, New Orleans, Uganda, and to New York City after 9/11.

    In all of these places, his work has been with people recovering from widespread trauma. His area of interest is resilience. One of the terms he uses is “suffering successfully.”

  4. Pingback: Links To Other Web Site Resources | Art Sphere, Inc.

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