looking beyond the numbers.

No words… as a child psychologist who typically tries to find the right words to help parents and children cope with their own various struggles, I find myself speechless with endless tears.

So often when tragedy strikes, the media tries to focus on numbers…Isn’t that how it works? The more causalities, the larger the death toll, the more press the reporter gets for the story. Just looking at some headlines from past tragedies, I read, for example, that 275,000 homes were lost as a result of hurricane Katrina, “which is ten times as many as any other natural disaster in US history.” I also read that “at least 1,836 people lost their lives in Hurricane Katrina and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest US hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane.” Even the headlines when Hurricane Sandy struck were similar: Hurricane Sandy Aftermath: Storm Leaves Millions Without Power, Dozens Dead.

Of course the numbers are important. But what we often fail to pay attention to are the actual people and families that have been impacted. Each person in the count has a real face, personality, story, and people who are truly grieving for the loss of their loved ones.

When I first saw on the news that 28 people, 8 adults and 20 children were killed in the Connecticut school shooting on Friday, like most other causalities from any disaster, it was shocking; I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t stop thinking about it.

But I decided that I needed to take the time to get to know the people behind the numbers as best as I could. I spent time reading about every boy and girl, man and woman that were killed. I looked at the pictures of the victims and thought about each child:

Charlotte Bacon, 6, Daniel Barden, 7, Olivia Engel, 6, Josephine Gay, 7, Ana Marquez-Greene, 6, Dylan Hockley, 6, Madeleine F. Hsu, 6, Catherine V. Hubbard, 6, Chase Kowalski, 7, Jesse Lewis, 6, James Mattioli, 6, Grace McDonnell, 7, Emilie Parker, 6, Jack Pinto, 6, Noah Pozner, 6, Caroline Previdi, 6, Jessica Rekos, 6, Avielle Richman, 6, Benjamin Wheeler, 6, Allison N. Wyatt, 6.

I looked at her sweet face and cried as I read about how Sandy Hook Elementary principal Dawn Hochsprung died running toward the gunfire to protect her students.

When I put my children to sleep, I hugged them extra tightly and sang some extra bedtime songs. I didn’t want to let go. And now when I lay my head down, I think about how each of those 28 people have families who will not be able to sleep for a long time as they mourn the loss of their loved ones whose lives were brutally taken way too early.

Written by Dr. Dahlia Topolosky

Dr. Dahlia Topolosky

Dr. Dahlia Topolosky is a licensed psychologist and parent coach. Her practice focuses on individual and group therapy, as well as psycho-educational evaluations for behavior and learning disorders. Dahlia is founder of the New Orleans Parents Club (NOPC), a group for parents to socialize and learn positive and effective parenting skills. She also provides private, parent coaching to parents struggling with the normal ups and downs of parenting. Dahlia loves singing, playing guitar and hand drums, and spending time with her husband Rabbi Uri of Beth Israel, and their 4 children.

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