What Were Your Last Words?

I grew up in a time where you walked to school, came home when the streetlights turned on, spent the entire summer outside playing, and knew everyone in my neighborhood.  I also grew up in a time when Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat weren’t even on the technology radar.  Video Games were basic, and the personal home computer was just emerging, and we had, at most, 10 channels on television.  Today, technology moves at lightning speed.  I heard once we carry more technology in our Smart Phones than the astronauts had on the Apollo 13 mission as they traveled in space.   We can connect with people around the globe instantly.  News of current events travel so quickly that by the time you read the story, you have missed the immediacy of the message.  We have realistic video games and 500 television channels and still nothing to watch.  We post pictures of ourselves “living our best life”, but always complain of the “fear of missing out”.   We post our thoughts in the hopes of getting recognition, but we become offended when someone doesn’t agree with our opinion no matter how silly or illogical it is.  We are more apt to text than pick up the phone and call.  We are constantly communicating, but we rarely say anything to one another because of how our news feed quickly flashes by until….something tragic occurs. 

There is nothing wrong with our current technology.  In fact, we live in exciting times.  Technology has created a worldwide connection we have never experienced.  It allows us to share cultures and experiences like no other time in the history of humankind, but it does come with a price.   Just as much as the latest fashion trend makes heads turn, so does the latest school, concert, or workplace shooting.  Our greatest asset of technology is often used as a platform for notoriety and infamy.   Proclamations and manifestos are uploaded to social media before, during, and after a tragic incident in the hopes the killer will live on forever in our collective thoughts.  Anger, angst, and rage are expressed in posts, blogs, and videos in order to create chaos and fear along with wanting the world to pay for the wrongs society has allegedly done to the killer.  Instead of resolution, the killer seeks atonement through the senseless mass execution of the innocent.  The aftermath and the affects on, very specifically, school-aged children following a mass shooting are both devastating and debilitating.  It is common for those affected directly and indirectly to have increased anxiety, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, resistance to school, inability to trust, uneasiness, depression, fear, decline in academic performance, inability to fully express their thoughts and feelings, why questions, absence of feelings of safety and security, changes in eating habits, increased anger, hyper-vigilance, grief, loss, and guilt. These symptoms and behavior may result in Acute Stress DisorderPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and even delayed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Before you begin to think this a post railing against modern technology as it affects our youth during times of tragedy, it is not.  This post is more about communication and connection is our very troubled times.  As mentioned before, we are constantly communicating, but we say nothing to each other.  We are more concerned about the “business” and “perception” of family than the love of family.  We are more focused on capturing the moment instead of being in the moment.  I had dinner with my two kids the other night and I asked them to put their phones away and just talk.  As we engaged in conversation about my daughter going away to college versus my son staying home in college, I noticed them looking around at other tables.  A family of six sitting one table over from us, all actively looking at their phones, never once said a word to one another.  All focused on something else instead of engaging with the person sitting next to them.  I thought about the time lost during that dinner.  Time that family will never get back. 

Do you remember your last words to your spouse, significant other, children, or family members?  Not a text, your actual words.  Did you tell them you loved them?  Did you tell them how deeply you cared for them?  Did you tell them how special they are to you?   Did you explain to them how your life is better because they are in it?  Or, did you go about the business of family and tell them what to do?  Or, did you argue with them?  Or, did you hurt their feelings?  Or, did you tell them they were wrong?  If tragedy were to strike, what were your last words?  Like mass shootings in general, school shootings have gone from being a rare tragedy to a tragic reality.  We send our children to school fully expecting them to come home at the end of the day.  What do you say to your kids before they leave for school?  What do you communicate to them?  What were your last words? 

As a trauma therapist, I see the pain and anguish of guilt and regret on a regular basis for those left behind after a tragic incident.  My very simple and basic advice let people in your life know you love them every single day.  DO NOT take life for granted or for chance.  We must change our communication from superficial to genuine.  We must replace boasting with basic love.  We must let our children know we love them and teach them to show love in return.  We only get one chance at this life of ours so we must not squander what we have rather we must revel in the beauty and love in the people around us. 

With this said, please take a few moments to watch this clip called “Closeted”.  Please ask yourself, “What were my last words?”

~ Dennis Carradin, Founder of the Trauma Survivors Foundation

Dennis Carradin