Dear Parkland community: As the fourth anniversary of the tragedy approaches, our community finds itself once again preparing and bracing for some inevitable challenges. When you add in the pandemic, the national social and political discord, as well as the upcoming criminal trial to the mix, things can really feel overwhelming. As I reflect on my professional experiences as well as my own personal journey of growth and healing, I wanted to share some helpful things I learned along the way to keep in mind as you enter into this time of year: Remember… It’s okay to not be okay I actually go this printed on a shirt that I sometimes wear to work. Many of us go through life with the notion that we must always keep our heads up, pull up our socks, and lean into adversity with a positive attitude. While this “game face” can temporarily be a helpful coping strategy for some, at times we just need to give ourselves permission to be messy! Some old clients of mine would joke around about this concept as they prepared to talk about some vulnerable topic, and they would say “time to get weird!” and proceed to get emotional and cry. Without ever allowing ourselves to feel our true feelings of sadness, anger, shame or fear, these powerful emotions can accumulate to the point when we feel overwhelmed, stuck, or shut down. Some people are afraid that if they let themselves go there, they’ll fall apart or spiral out of control. In a safe and supportive space it can be cathartic to finally put down the mask and be honest with ourselves as we connect to some of these messy feelings. You are not alone Many of the freshman who were students at the time of the original event have since moved on to the next phase of their lives—college. Teachers have gotten new jobs, community members moved away. While a geographical change may in one way provide a sense of relief in finally being removed from the source of so much trauma and pain, some now struggle in a different way with the notion that no one in their new communities truly understands what they are going through. Stay in touch with old connections to get through tough times together. Reach out and support an old friend who you know is having trouble. And keep in mind that, while others will never truly be able to empathize what you have experienced, they may have faced their own adversity and possibly can relate more than you think if you give them a chance. Validate your own experiences Everyone copes in different ways and has different experiences, so try not to judge yourself on how your journey looks as compared to someone else’s. Don’t minimize your own pain or suffering because you believe someone else had it worse than you. Your experience is valid and true to you! After all, research shows that many factors can influence the severity of how a person struggles following their exposure to a stressful or traumatic event. In 2018, I remember working with a client who was on the other end of the campus during the shooting and who was experiencing major post-traumatic stress symptoms related to what happened. To make things worse, she felt a sense of shame and inadequacy from how much she was being affected compared to some of those who were in the actual building. In the process of healing, it was extremely important to normalize and validate her experience. Do what you have to do to cope Everyone’s path to healing looks different, and that’s okay! If watching the news all day and attending every memorial event is something that helps, go for it. If avoiding social media and hunkering down is more effective for managing your mental health, by all means do what you have to do. If you need a temporary distraction, if you need to just let it out and cry, if you find yourself working more than usual to stay busy and have your mind occupied, if you like to surround yourself with loved ones... Remember that there is no right or wrong way to approach difficult situations. Work with your support system, trust your instincts, and give yourself the kindness and space you need. There are high-quality, professional resources available to help Our community is full of passionate, highly-trained clinicians who can help you work through your struggles. There are therapists of all ages, genders, cultural backgrounds and personality styles. If you’ve never been to therapy before, welcome to the party! It’s a safe and supportive process that has helped so many get past difficult times. Professionals United for Parkland (PU4P) has a list of vetted clinicians who have extensive experience in working with the local community related to this topic. Or reach out to trusted friends, family members, clergy, colleagues, or whoever else you know has been down this path and they will help you find what you need. It’s never too late to do the work After the shooting I remember talking to Deb, one of the leaders of the Sandy Hook recovery efforts, who shared that people were still coming to therapy for the first time five years plus later. While it’s true that getting support sooner will often help to avoid prolonged suffering and distress, some people may just need more time before they are ready to do this work. People come into therapy all the time to address and resolve stuff from many decades prior. It’s all good! Remember that it’s never too late to address your old wounds, and there will always be help available for when you are ready. Thank you for letting me share some thoughts with you as we arrive to yet another anniversary of the tragic event. It feels so long ago and, yet, also feels fresh in certain ways. I wish you all the best on your journeys ahead. Sincerely, Brian G "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain" - Vivian Greene If you should find yourself or someone you know in immediate crisis or need for help, dial 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Some other resources for immediate crisis support include:
211 – In Florida, and many areas, most counties will have a dedicated 211 resource hotline. Dial 211 from your phone to be connected to your local 211 branch. This may depend on where you’re calling from if it’s from your Cell Phone.
Crisis Text Line – Text any word (Help, Talk, etc.) to 741741 to be connected via text to a trained crisis counselor.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline – Until the 3-digit hotline number is active later in 2022, the original number will still be the one to use – 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Our Mission: “Professionals United for Parkland was created to identify and meet the short and long-term needs related to mental health/well-being of the South Florida community in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy through evidence-based services including education for the general community and professionals, clinical training, clinical services, support for clinicians, and more. We work alongside other local organizations and groups to ensure that we identify gaps in current services and that the needs of our community are being adequately addressed. We are entirely non-political.”
Professionals United for Parkland remembers Alyssa Alhadeff. Donations in Alyssa’s memory can be made to MakeOurSchoolsSafe.org. The nonprofit was started by the Alhadeff family and seeks to improve school safety nationwide. On Feb. 6, Alyssa’s Law mandating silent panic alarms in New Jersey public schools was signed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. Spurred by her daughter’s death, Lori Alhadeff was elected to the Broward School Board. To learn more: https://makeourschoolssafe.org/
Professionals United for Parkland remembers Coach Scott Beigel. The Scott J. Beigel Memorial Fund was founded to send underprivileged children touched by gun violence to summer sleep-away camp. From the website: “Scott Beigel wasn’t a hero because he opened the door to his classroom at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that day. He was a hero because he opened doors every day.” To learn more: ScottJBeigelMemorialFund.com Professionals United for Parkland honors Martin Duque-Anguiano. At Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Martin received accolades as a JROTC cadet for perfect attendance, good conduct, leadership development. The U.S. Army posthumously awarded him with a Medal of Heroism for acts of heroism in the face of danger. Support the JROTC at MSD in his memory. To learn more: https://jrotceagles.com/
Professionals United for Parkland remembers Nick Dworet. The Nicholas Dworet Memorial Fund, Inc., is a non-profit charity organization “focused on helping make the world around us a better, happier place. Our mission is to keep Nick's memory alive by helping kids learn how to be better swimmers. Nick was always helping his friends and teammates be better. He wouldn't have it any other way.” The Fund helps to provide free swim clinics to middle and high school aged teens, as well as college scholarships to swimmers at MSD. To learn more: https://nicholasdworetfund.org/.org Professionals United for Parkland remembers Coach Aaron Feis. The Coach Aaron Feis Foundation is aimed to continue his passion & his everyday life of helping the underserved & struggling youth through Education, Sports, Nutrition & Clothing. So these young Students can have the tools & means to excel through life and have a better future. The Coach Aaron Feis Foundation is a 501c3 Non-Profit that receives donations from the public to help our under-served youth with Education, Clothing & Nutrition. To learn more: https://coachfeisfoundation.org/
Professionals United for Parkland remembers Jaime Guttenberg. Orange Ribbons For Jaime will honor our daughter by supporting programs that were important to her, as well as those dedicated to pursuing common sense gun safety reforms. Scholarships are awarded to students in three areas - dance, helping others and all abilities. To learn more: https://orangeribbonsforjaime.org/ Professionals United for Parkland remembers Christopher Hixon. From the website created in his honor, "His love for his student-athletes was well known. He always went the extra mile to ensure they were taken care of. To continue his legacy and continue to take care of student-athletes, we have created a scholarship in his name for student-athletes at his three former schools." To learn more: https://chrishixonathleticscholarship.com/
Professionals United for Parkland remembers Luke Hoyer. Donations made in Luke’s memory should be directed through Voices for Children of Broward County to the Luke Hoyer Athletic Fund at VoicesBroward.org, which provides sports equipment and training to children for basketball, football and dance, and to StandWithParkland.org, the parents’ advocacy group. To learn more: VoicesBroward.org Professionals United for Parkland remembers Cara Loughran. Cara Dances On is our effort to continue her beautiful legacy, by making college scholarships available to her fellow students at Drake School of Irish Dance FL. This Scholarship will be presented to someone whom has truly represented the spirit of Cara. To learn more: https://caradanceson.net/
Professionals United for Parkland remembers Gina Montalto. Gina always took great pride in her education. High grades and school involvement were a huge part of Gina's life. She always looked for ways to help others. To honor Gina's memory the family created the Gina Rose Montalto Memorial Foundation to help students with the cost of post secondary education, as well as make charitable donations to causes Gina supported. With your donations, we hope to help give the gift of higher education to other children. To learn more: https://ginarosemontaltomemorialfoundation.org/ Professionals United for Parkland remembers Joaquin "Guac" Oliver. "Change The Ref (CTR), was formed to empower our Future Leaders. CTR gives the kids of today the tools they need to be empowered to make changes to critical issues that affect our nation, through education, conversation, and activism. Change The Ref’s ultimate goal is to give the young generation of survivors and victims a disrupting voice to help lead the way to change – a more peaceful future." #NeverAgain. To learn more: https://changetheref.org/
Professionals United for Parkland remembers Alaina Petty. The WalkUp Foundation’s mission "is to improve the safety and security of our nation’s schools. Educational seminars and workshops will be designed to address three goals: (1) advocating for safer schools; (2) supporting the development of and encouraging the creation of school based programs which enhance school safety; and (3) educating individuals, organizations and lawmakers about the tools available to make schools safer and strengthen the laws to ensure that school district comply with safe school practices." To learn more: https://walkupfoundation.org/
Professionals United for Parkland remembers Meadow Pollack. Her family is aggressively pursuing making our schools safe and has created #MeadowsMovement with this purpose. They have raised funds to build a safe playground & garden in the community. Meadow’s Playground at Betti Stradling Park and the Coral Springs Chabad in 2020. To learn more: Click Here Professionals United for Parkland remembers Helena Ramsay. The Helena Ramsay Soaring Leader Scholarship was created to celebrate her vision for a better global society. Helena was very aware if the challenges faced in communities across the globe, such as inequality and discrimination, and had an appreciation for other cultures. To learn more: https://www.gofundme.com/f/helena-ramsay-msd-memorial-fund
Professionals United for Parkland remembers Alex Schachter. SAFE SCHOOLS FOR ALEX is a 501(c)(3) whose mission is to provide the most current school safety best practices and resources to students, parents, school districts and law enforcement so that all children can learn in a safe environment. For more information, visit: To learn more: https://www.safeschoolsforalex.org/
Professionals United for Parkland remembers Carmen Schentrup. Any donations made to the fund will go directly to the most promising ALS research through The ALS Association. Please join Carmen and our entire family in the quest to find a cure for ALS by making a donation today. Our hope is that, with enough help from all of you, Carmen’s dream can be achieved. For more information, visit: To learn more: https://donate.als.org/give/287300/#!/donation/checkout
Professionals United for Parkland honors Peter Wang. For his acts of heroism, he was awarded the highest United States Department of the Army medal - ROTC Medal for Heroism and posthumously accepted West Point. In honor of his memory, the Peter Wang was created to help disadvantaged students and for donations to charities Peter supported. To learn more: https://www.peterwangfoundation.org/
During the month of January, Professionals United for Parkland remembers Alyssa Alhadeff. Donations in Alyssa’s memory can be made to MakeOurSchoolsSafe.org. The nonprofit was started by the Alhadeff family and seeks to improve school safety nationwide. On Feb. 6, Alyssa’s Law mandating silent panic alarms in New Jersey public schools was signed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. Spurred by her daughter’s death, Lori Alhadeff was elected to the Broward School Board.
To learn more: https://makeourschoolssafe.org/
PU4P Updates Interested in joining our trauma trained therapists (licensed only) - please take a few moments of your time and join the PU4P referral directory. The MSD community will need services for the long run. PU4P links those in need with a vetted list of trauma therapists. We ask for a commitment of 2 pro-bono clients a year. For more information or questions, please contact email@example.com. Please support PU4P by designating it as your charity with The AmazonSmile Foundation. They will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible smile.amazon.com purchases. Don't forget to check our Facebook page for the most current events, updates, and information about PU4P! Thank you for your support of PU4P and your dedication to the Parkland community.