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Tucson Healing

The tragic shooting in Tucson that left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords brain injured and six others dead left a nation in shock and mourning. Amidst the horror, I was filled with a seething rage… at gun control laws, at the escalating violence, and at the inadequacy of mental health resources.

My anger began to dissipate as I watched the city of Tucson come together and heal. Public memorials started springing up; mourners began to gather on the front lawn of the University Medical Center. At first a few at a time, but then more and more people showed up, and the front lawn became a carpet of candles, letters, photographs, and poems. In the beginning it was a place of quiet reflection where visitors whispered to each other. Then it became a more social experience, and people brought guitars, violins, and stayed for hours. Other memorials appeared, one in front of the supermarket where the shootings took place. Citizens put signs on their front lawns, hung tributes on cacti, even sponsored a parade.

Two young women organized A Peace March, they hoped 100 people might show up, but word-of-mouth, flyers on telephone poles, and Facebook postings brought out 400 people. People young and old, of every race and creed, marching to honor victims of senseless violence and honor heroism. One lady showed up with a sign that said Free Hugs and people were hugging her all along the entire parade route.

What’s happening here? Simply that as a species, we have a need to gather in community in times of stress and times of joy. We heal better in community, and rituals and ceremonies provide us with a way to open our hearts and express feelings.
Participating as a community breaks down the boundaries that separate people, Joining in them rather than observing them is a whole different experience. When we’re in the middle of it we can feel the energy of everyone pulling in the same direction. That energy gives us hope in times of our greatest doubts and despair.

Even as a spectator I was moved, and for the first time in a while, proud to be an Arizonan.

4 Responses to “Tucson Healing”

  1. Barbara Belton says:

    Dear Dr. H….as always you have a way of touching the heart of the matter. Working in behavioral health in Tucson for many years developing and directing a recovery program for adults dx’d with a smi when the notion was not a popular one left me battered and bruised to say the least. Making the decision to leave and return to the mountains of Colorado for my own healing was not an easy one…and was definitely one of the best I’ve made. I loved being an Arizonan, tho’ my heart grieved often in the midst of what I experienced each day. Your words today speak to the truth of the hearts of so many wonderful friends we made in Tucson who are out there every day doing their part to create the community you speak of. Will be sharing this post with them this day and know that it will help them with their healing. Once again and as always, Thankyou!

  2. Thanks so much for this wonderful post! As always I love your writing and your way of engaging the world! These violent situations are very sad and yet powerful in that they are bringing people together. May we have more and more opportunities to join together in celebration, without having to have trauma to unite us!

  3. Jaimie Leopold says:

    Thank you for this simple and eloquent post. I can attest to the beauty that has been occurring across this community over the past month. Now colleagues and I are planning a fresh approach to dialogue and deliberation in response to the call for renewed civility in public life. We believe that hearts, minds and ears are open for the first time in a long while.

  4. Ruth Garland says:

    As a parent of a (formerly) very angry teenage son and a healthcare provider i am acutely aware of the lack of resources for young adults. The answers are not simple. We have a population of disengaged, alienated, mentally unstable folks who need a lot of attention from folks other than their parents. It is a very serious problem. We were very lucky. We had the resources and community support to sheperd our son thru this challenging passage. And we are all alive and well.
    I love the positve spin you laid on this national tragedy. I only hope that as a society we can learn better how to guide these angry and spirited souls. The incident was an isolated event. His frustration anger and confusion is not.

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Dr. Carl A. Hammerschlag, M.D., CPAE is a psychiatrist, author, and professional keynote speaker. He is an authority in the science of psychoneuroimmunology mind, body, spirit medicine and speaks about health and wellness, healing, leadership and authenticity . He has delivered motivational keynote speeches to corporate and business clients around the world.