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  • Writer's pictureHelen Dempsey-Henofer

Another shooting... thoughts from an angry therapist

My heart breaks for Maine.

Deep deep sadness is present and while I am looking forward to doing my work, being as present as I can be with the awesome humans I get to work with…

There’s anger.

There’s a hope that there’s enough anger, that as a society that anger and grief will move us to action. That action is too late for the lives lost today (again, in America <—— WOW IS THAT WILDLY UNACCEPTABLE) to preventable violence.

While today’s grief isn’t mine to own, it doesn’t touch my life as it does the families…

My career path was shaped in the wake of preventable deaths and gun violence in Charlottesville in 2001. I know the fear that rocks communities, the anguish that hits families.


A friend posts on social media, extending care and love to friends in Maine.

I check the news.

My throat tightens. I swallow and feel that pit in my stomach, the sensory lightning moves through my body - energy that screams that there’s GOT to be a fight to fight, having nowhere to go, feeling wildly uncomfortable. I make a mental note: somatic exercises today.

On autopilot, I get coffee at the Starbucks drivethru (forgetting my caffeine detox plan completely) and drive to my office to meet a psychiatrist in Blacksburg for a virtual face-to-face.

I ask him how he’s doing in Blacksburg, as new violence brings up old trauma and this impacts our work as mental health professionals. He tells me about his experience in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting.

This is not okay.

It’s not okay that we keep having these conversations, “How are you holding up?” (in the context of very real, present, PREVENTABLE violence).

The continuing education discussion “navigating values-conflicts in therapy” on my agenda for the afternoon, though meaningful and connected to my ongoing work, seems inane at this moment.

I make a plan to call my representatives and put on my calendar to take up space in some state and federal offices, anger shifting to feelings of fatigue, overwhelm, and hopelessness. Still. Do the thing.

I fully acknowledge that pro-gun folks need therapy too and that there’s an ethical dilemma with therapists taking political stands. (Full disclosure: I’m a country bumpkin who grew up shooting cans and I *like* shooting, but people being alive matters more to me.) It’s strange that “vote to keep people alive” is political, but in the United States in 2023, it is. The thing about ethical dilemmas is that they aren’t cut-and-dry. Where I draw the line is this...

For anyone to access “mental health care” (which is secondary to living their full life to its natural end) they need to first be alive.


Angry? Numb? Disoriented? Hopeless? Withdrawn? Grief can be like that. It makes sense to grieve in this. It is my sincere hope that you have someone to lean on and access to the support you need.

If you are in Virginia and would like to connect with a mental health therapist, you can check out our services here and schedule a free consultation.


Helen Dempsey-Henofer LCSW, ADHD-CCSP

Founder of Divergent Path Wellness

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