To My Fellow Survivors
Author: Crystal Woodman Miller
Dear Fellow Survivor,
Twenty years ago, after surviving the shootings at Columbine High School, I hoped and prayed no one else would ever have to endure what our community went through that day. Yet over the years, many more have been forced into this exclusive “club” as survivors. I am so, so sorry that you are now one of us. My heart breaks for you, and I wish such pain was not a part of your story, and I wish I could somehow erase the hurt it has caused. Regardless of how much or how little time has passed, I know the ache and emptiness that comes after trauma. It’s not fair. It’s not how this life was supposed to be.
But you are not alone.
Life after trauma is not easy to navigate. Once the cameras are packed up and the reporters go home, and the rest of the world moves on, you are left at a stand still — feeling isolated, alone, forgotten. Everything gets harder and feels heavier — holidays, sleeping, working, parenting, breathing and trying to navigate relationships (to name just a few). You start comparing what you went through to someone else’s story, and it’s easy to feel like your trauma is insignificant compared to theirs. But I want you to know, whatever your story may be, it matters — greatly. You are not strange or broken because you are struggling. Sadness, depression, anxiety, worry, fear, loneliness, grief, guilt, anger, confusion, hopelessness — all of these are normal, and if you are feeling any or all of these, you are in very good company. Give yourself grace to feel it all, and feel it deeply. Getting to the other side is a process — your process — and it will take as much time as you need. Don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise.
Perhaps right now, your suffering is overwhelming. Or you feel as though you’re being suffocated by misery, and your past, along with a barrage of unanswerable questions are tormenting you, leaving you feeling a sense of hopelessness. And as hard as it may be to see, I truly believe you will be ok and it will not always feel this way.
There is hope.
And where there is hope, there is life.
Hope is more than an ideology to be memorized or a system to be implemented. And it’s not a pipe dream beyond your grasp. Hope is real and tangible.
Peace in your chaos
Strength in your weakness
Beauty in your ashes
Courage in your fears
Assurance in your uncertainty
And Light in your darkness
Do you believe that it is possible to be both marked by tragedy, and at the same time be shaped by hope? Though devastating, and forever a part of you, tragedy doesn’t have to have the final say. But hope can. It’s a choice only you can make. To fight for your healing and wellness, you must choose hope daily. It won’t be easy, but I promise it will be worth it. Only then will you experience what it means to truly Triumph over Tragedy, and live as a victor rather than a victim.
However, I know this is easier said than done. Maybe for you, PTSD keeps rearing its ugly head and you don’t have the tools to manage it. Maybe you don’t have the means to find a therapist, or no one has been a good fit for you. Maybe you’ve buried your trauma so deep, you don’t know where to even begin to uncover it.
Again, you’re not alone.
The human race was designed for relationship and community. We were never meant to walk alone through suffering and pain, but to bear the burden for one another. But if you are feeling alone in this season, you need to know that you are seen, you are heard, you are deeply loved, you are valued and you belong. As a fellow survivor, I am for you, and I am for your healing.
I hate that there is so much pain in our world. But I am so glad there is hope. After coming out of my own traumatic experiences, and choosing to live with hope, my joy, purpose and meaning has been restored and it has become my passion to help others find the same. And now, together with The Onsite Foundation, we have developed an incredible opportunity for survivors find hope and healing. This carefully curated program is called Triumph over Tragedy. It’s the first and only of it’s kind — a trauma-informed, therapeutic program for survivors of mass shootings. We don’t want anyone to miss out because of finances, so it is available to you through full scholarship because of generous donors. This program is led by top experts, therapists, and clinicians — all trained in trauma to walk you through a variety of modalities, and give you the tools and resources you need to help you through your trauma and emotional pain.
This week-long workshop is highly specific to meet you where you are, but also surrounds you with other survivors who understand what you’ve been through.
No matter where you are in your healing journey, we want you to be a part of this. It is my deepest desire that you choose hope. So, let us walk this dark road with you back into the light. And together, we can find hope, healing and continued wellness as survivors of mass shootings.
Crystal Woodman Miller