The Day After Sandy Hook

Today my thoughts go to the families of Sandy Hook. Through all the chaos and noise of American life right now, I remember the day after Sandy Hook as if it was yesterday. Here’s what I wrote that day:

I woke up twenty times last night and each time I thought the same thought. Their mothers must still be shrieking. Shrieking and keening. Making sounds they never heard themselves make. That’s what the Sandy Hook mothers are doing, I know it. And then I’d fall back asleep only to wake again with the same thought. All night until the grey light of this rainy Saturday signaled time to get up, make coffee, and read the paper where the first paragraph of the article about the Sandy Hook School shootings was in extra large font, probably the same they used on 9/11. A picture of a man looking to the heavens only made me wonder about the murdered children’s moms.

Most women will tell you that there have been times in their lives when they hid in the shower to shriek and keen, to sob and cry out, and to make sounds they never heard themselves make – because of grief or heartbreak or failure or sorrow. They emerge wan and weak but composed. Their pain expressed in the shower like so much milk from a heavy breast. A woman who has not done this has it waiting for her.

So today while I was sitting in the shallow warm water of a suburban water park where my husband and I took our six-year old granddaughter, a first-grader like all of the children murdered at Sandy Hook, I recalled the night of waking and thinking of the shrieking and keening and thought I could not survive what those moms are enduring right now. I would die in the shower. I would shriek and keen and make noises I’ve never heard myself make and I would simply die from my grief turned inside out. There would be no surviving it. How will they survive this?

I don’t believe that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. If there is a God, I think he/she often gives people an intolerable burden and they sometimes collapse from the weight. There isn’t triumph in every sorrow, everyone doesn’t overcome or turn tragedy into a cause and a first grader’s little life into a memorial. Sometimes the shrieking and keening are endless because the grief is endless and replenishing.

I have nothing to give them – the Sandy Hook moms. The grief and sorrow in my life has been in a well-guarded swimming pool, theirs is in the North Sea at night with ice floes and heavy waves. I am afraid beyond words of where their grief is taking them at this very moment and my mother’s heart, my grandmother’s heart aches for them in ways I cannot explain to anyone.

I am so sorry.


I think there has been progress in the four years since Sandy Hook. The organizing by Moms Demand Action has been extraordinary and, slowly, there are some changes being made. A majority of the country’s population believes in universal background checks and we need to translate that into law. The sale of assault rifles needs to be banned; there is no use for an assault rifle by a civilian in our country. Guns made for war do not belong in our homes.

3 Comments on “The Day After Sandy Hook

  1. So well done, Jan. I know that isn’t the point, but in addition to feeling the outrage you do, I must also express that you really should have a column. This is one of the best opinion pieces I’ve ever read, at times transforming into poetry. if anyone can express the grief a mother would experience upon the death of a child, you can and just have. If mothers could get as indignant about the idiocy of gun laws as Trump supporters have over whatever they are upset about, we could perhaps bring about a change. Unfortunately, it looks like those who can get indignant enough probably do not support gun reform at all. I think many millions are experiencing deep grief right now, but nothing compared to what you have just expressed so well.

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