On the evening of Monday, February 13th, much of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan was in lockdown mode as notifications of an “active shooter on campus” were sent to students, faculty, and staff.
Grandly shares an office with University Christian Outreach (UCO) just a mile off campus. They had students and outreach workers meeting in discipleship groups on campus. One of the UCO households is located just north of where the shootings took place. The assailant probably walked within 400 yards of my own home.
Tragedy is most impactful when it hits close to you or, in a grandparent’s case, close to your grandchildren. It produces deep emotions and raises serious questions and concerns.
There are two very important things a grandparent can do in times of tragedy. The first is to reach out and be in touch with your grandchildren. You are likely not in the “first circle” of those your grandchildren will talk to – as usually young children will talk with their parents and teens will chat with their peers. But it is important that your grandchildren know that you are there for them and that you highly value hearing from them even if just for your own peace of mind.
The second is what you do following the tragedy. Tragedies often stun us. They put us in a mental and emotional state of shock. We just don’t know what to think. So, we primarily feel. We only sort out what we think a bit later, after the shock has lessened. That “thinking through” process is where you can also be of help to your grandchildren.
As those who have lived through many kinds of tragedies, you have an advantage: you are less surprised by tragic events than young people are. You have experienced this before and have some perspective. You have developed a worldview that can navigate tragedy.
Coping with and dealing with tragedy needs to become part of your grandchildren’s worldview. They need to understand that tragedies will happen at times in their lives. They especially need help to know how to answer, “How could this happen?” or the corollary question, “How could God let this happen?” You can help them with that.
For Discussion: What tragedy has impacted one of your grandchildren recently?
For Action: Consider how you could follow that up with a conversation and have it.
Mike Shaughnessy is the founder of Grandly and lives in Lansing, Michigan.