“Not in My Neigbourhood!” Helping Ourselves and Our Children in the Aftermath of the Lynn Valley Stabbings
Another tragic story – and this one so close to home. On March 27, 2021, the security in the family friendly neighbourhood of Lynn Valley, North Vancouver was shattered by a traumatic tragedy. A man randomly stabbed people at the Lynn Valley Library in the middle of a busy Saturday afternoon. This happened for no apparent reason.
We do not know the motivation or circumstances of the assailant at this point, although we have heard he had a criminal history and was known to the police. We do know one woman has succumbed to her injuries and six others are in the hospital. Many of us heard that one of the women was stabbed while holding the hand of her seven-year-old child. This image carries so much loss, fear and heartbreak.
It was just the day before this tragedy that I grabbed a coffee from the coffee shop at Library Square in Lynn Valley on my way to the hairdresser. I am a Family Therapist and Educator and I admit I love my neighbourhood. As I strolled through the Square enjoying the fresh air I was struck by the warmth of the people, and I felt gratitude to be a part of such a lovely community. I have often felt this way – even during the pandemic we still managed to have a sense of community and connection in this neighbourhood. There has always been a positive feeling in Lynn Valley. The Lynn Valley Library Square is a vital community hub frequented by many. It is not a pretentious place – but rather a user-friendly hub where all are welcomed. Many of our favourite stores and services are located close by. Before the pandemic, we attended Friday evening family concerts in Library Square throughout the summer. In the aftermath of this tragedy, we are a community in shock and grieving.
What should have been a regular Saturday running errands and spending time with the family ended in the worst way possible for many. There were parents and children in the Square when this tragedy struck, and many witnessed the shocking event. Others sat in shock and disbelief as we heard through the news, or through others, about what happened in our much-loved neighbourhood. For those of us who live on the North Shore we felt disbelief that this had happened so close to home. The people who were hurt were our neighbours, our colleagues, our teachers, and our friends. Those who watched throughout Canada shared our grief and watched in shock as they heard about what happened in this family neighbourhood, in the country we all love so much. .
My heart goes out to the family and friends of those hurt and those who have lost a loved one. We do not have all the details yet and the story will continue to develop. We know that the suspect attempted to harm himself and is in custody. We know that our first responders did an amazing job, and that many caring citizens helped the injured right away. We know that as a community we will immediately begin to support each other. There is no doubt there will be many questions and concerns that need to be addressed, but right now we do know that violence struck much closer to home than we anticipated.
It is not uncommon to experience some post traumatic stress when we hear of this type of unexpected tragedy. In addition to dealing with our own feelings, we need to help our children and youth understand what has occurred. They will have questions and we will need to give them some answers. How do we help our young people feel secure when our world has been shaken? How do we help children make sense of something that does not make sense to us?
There is much we will need to process around this horrific event, but here are some tips to help yourself and your children as we respond to the aftermath of this tragedy.
- Talk to your children. Do not brush this under the rug. This will be a source of discussion at school and other events. Children of all ages will be discussing this tragedy.
- Denial of a “bad thing” never makes it better. Our children need to talk about this event; it is their country and their world too. It is natural to pull together and discuss things that frighten and disturb us.
- Check in with them. Ask them what they have heard and what they understand about the tragedy? Find out what they know before you provide your information.
- Provide age-appropriate information. The types of discussions you have with your child will depend upon their age and what they have heard already.
- Turn away from Social Media, TV and turn towards each other. We all need information and will be drawn to learn more about this on television and social media. We cannot protect our children from the news out there, but we can still be in the lead with helping them know when to shut the information down. Gauge what is age appropriate and do not get lost in the news yourself. Stay sensitive to your children and remember some information alleviates anxiety, but too much information just overwhelms.
- Provide a brief overview. If they have not heard about this incident, which is unlikely, provide them with some information. Let them know that a man stabbed some people at a Library and the man has been caught by the police and is in custody. Let them know that responsible authorities are looking after the situation.
- Let your children ask questions. You will not have an answer to every question, but just letting them ask is healthy and moves emotions forward.
- Do not rush to try to make your children feel better. Give the feelings associated with this “airplay”. It is natural to be angry and scared in this situation. Let your children get their feelings out. Talk about the feelings, and let them know you feel those same things but that feelings move and change.
- Emphasize your connection. Connection with others always makes us feel better during upsetting time. Reach out to your children and let them know they can reach out to you and others.
- Look to the helpers. Tell your children there are way more good people than bad. Let your children know that people pull together during these difficult times. Remind yourself of this as well. The First Responders and the people close by did an amazing job in responding and keeping others safe. Something like this also brings out the best in human nature as so many people are helping those that are affected and suffering.
- Rely on Structure. Remind your children that there are procedures and protocols in place, and they can rely on the adults that are responding and doing their job. Return to your regular routine as this alleviates anxiety.
- We cannot pretend that the world is a perfect place. The world is a complicated place filled with pain and joy, but we can have heartfelt conversations with our children about tragedy. It is still a good world, although a complicated one, and bad things can happen in a good world.
These types of honest conversations can lead to more intimate and authentic relationships between ourselves and our children.
- When faced with the worst we need to turn towards the best. Give your children a hug, let them know that they are loved, and you are there for them. Turn to love as it remains the most powerful of all emotions and the best of humanity.