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I Breathe, Therefore I Am: Reflections on a Tragedy

I had a post ready to go up on this blog on Friday morning, just before the news broke about the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. My heart stopped, my tears flowed, and I no longer had words to share.

I’ve spent much of this past weekend thinking about how to think about all of this. Mostly, I have felt overwhelmed with sadness and anxiety. Like so many other parents, I have let my mind dip briefly into what I imagine the parents of Sandy Hook must be experiencing as they bury their children. The pain of even one such fleeting thought is so intensely debilitating that I immediately distract myself with anything I can get my hands and heart on.

Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” It’s an inspiring sentiment, but it’s not quite right, not today. If I were to let my thoughts define me today, I would spend the day swimming in grief and fear, desperately searching for ways to close in or strike out, to disengage from the violence and pain that has been flooding my sense for the past three days, despite my attempts to avoid the news. In my calmer moments, when I remember to notice the smell of my daughters’ hair or the sound of their giggles or the feeling of the floor under my feet or the wool on my skin, I am reminded that my thoughts are not reality. I am reminded that I can choose to hold them or release them. And I am reminded of perhaps the most painful, inspirational, and important lesson of Sandy Hook: that we truly only have this moment. Just this one.

So I choose to use this moment to breathe. I breathe in and miss my daughters, who are in daycare just two miles away. I breathe out and feel gratitude for another day with them. I breathe in sadness for the victims of gun violence everywhere. I breathe out hope for a different future for our children. I breathe in anger and breathe out compassion. I breathe in fear, and breathe out strength.

My mind wanders, the pain and worry return, and I breathe again.

I breathe, therefore I am.

In honor of the victims and families of Newtown, Connecticut. Please know that our nation is holding you in our hearts and prayers with each breath. You are not alone.

I Breathe, Therefore I Am: Reflections on a Tragedy

Carla Naumburg

Carla Naumburg, PhD, is writer, speaker, and clinical social worker. She is currently working on her third book, How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t at Your Kids (Workman, forthcoming). You can read more about her work at

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APA Reference
Naumburg, C. (2012). I Breathe, Therefore I Am: Reflections on a Tragedy. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Dec 2012
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