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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. I hope you can help me. Months after the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, I am still haunted by the horrific nature of that tragedy.

I am the adoring father of two sons who are in the same age range as the Sandy Hook child victims, and I think that has made this horror even more real and severe for me. For days after the shootings, I cried every day, and I continue to cry today.

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I have prayed constantly since that day for God to do the impossible by instilling peace in the victims’ families.

Recently I have occasionally been able to watch a snippet of related coverage or read a paragraph in an article, but prior to that I couldn’t bear to see any images or read any stories about the tragedy.

I’ve felt so helpless all along. What can a mere human do to ease this sort of pain for other parents? I think some of this helplessness is a weird sort of guilt and also a fear for my own boys’ well-being.

I’m a normally upbeat, optimistic person, but I have not reached my usual level of joy and peace since this event. I’d appreciate your guidance.

Devastated From

a Distance

A. I find it quite understandable that you would be horrified, worried, and even traumatized by the Sandy Hook attack. It is truly beyond comprehension and has shaken many of us to the core.

Events such as the 9/11 attacks and the horrific crime at Sandy Hook can trigger depression in people who have no personal connection to the event. A therapist can help you express some of your own fears, explore your anxieties, obsessions and rumination, and talk about your worries for the future.

Any time you find that your usual temperament seems to be altered in the longer term, it is a sign that you need an evaluation and some treatment. Talking about this with a compassionate counselor will help you.

Q. I have had a serious problem with forgiveness all my life. I hold grudges. I know this is only hurting me. Any words of advice on how to forgive and move on?

Stuck

A. Each of us has faults and flaws (grudge-holding is one of yours). Before forgiveness, you could focus on acceptance.

You tell yourself, “I cannot change other people. I cannot change the past, but I can accept that people are flawed, they make mistakes and do hurtful things. I have been hurt. I have been wounded. But these wounds do not define me.”

Create a mental picture of the person or events that have hurt you. And then imagine these pictures melting, floating or dissolving away.

It is harder to forgive someone who hasn’t asked for forgiveness, but forgiveness is a powerful concept that can set you free. Imagine asking the people you hold grudges against to forgive you for being intransigent. That’s a tall order, but it would close the circle for you.

Q. “Sad Grandma” was upset because her daughter-in-law wouldn’t allow her to host the grandkids because her partner smokes.

I think it’s really important for people to realize that second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke are toxic. It settles in the drapes, carpets, and clothing. It can actually be harmful — not only to babies and children, but also to grandma herself.

Allergic

A. This reality was the inspiration for my response.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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