Resources in the Aftermath of a Mass Shooting

“The tragedy of school shootings should never numb us, in spite of their heinous frequency. Our mission is to walk with people on the path to hope and healing through counseling and education so that we might all find our way to the fullness of life. Many of our clients are the same age as the victims of these shootings. We work with them and often their trauma through a healing process. This trauma is often caused by others called to carry responsibility for their safety and flourishing—whose irresponsible choices cause pain and despair rather than healing and hope.

As we strive to carry our responsibility to keep children safe, may we not be complicit in the pain, but warriors of justice, peace and healing.

To help us shoulder this responsibility, we offer resources for you to use within your own networks and communities. May the day come soon when such resources aren’t necessary because our decisions have put a stop to this madness.”

-Jim Hayes, Executive Director


Iowa’s Mobile Crisis Response system  provides free, on-site support for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. If a mental health crisis occurs, one or two-person mental health professional teams will be dispatched to the crisis within one hour of receiving a request. This on-site support is offered 24/7.

Behavioral health urgent care is available in Des Moines at Broadlawns and Unity Point, Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm.

General Disaster Resources

  • Disaster Distress Helpline (SAMHSA): The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster.

General Resources for Coping After a Mass Shooting

Resources for Parents and Teachers

Compiled by the Iowa Psychological Association Disaster Response Committee on 5/26/2022

Blog: Media review for hope and healing: Face, A Memoir by Marcia Meier

Face, A Memoir by Marcia Meier

Reviewed by Terri Mork Speirs, June 2021

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When Marica Meier was five years old, she was dragged nearly 200 feet underneath a car in front of her home, in a catastrophic accident that happened in a matter of moments. She writes:

My cheek was scraped off down to the bone, my left eyelid was missing, and the bottom lid was carved away from the eyeball, though the eyeball was intact. (17)

The left side of her face was gone. Her trauma was further aggravated by a series 20 surgeries whereby skin was grafted from other parts of her body for facial reconstruction. Her hands were often tied during and following the procedure. Sometimes she was also blindfolded to keep her still for the surgeon. She experienced teasing from classmates and taunting from her church and teachers, who would often have her detained alone in the coat closet for “acting out.” The words of her mother haunted her for years: “We told you never to cross the street without looking.” As if she were to blame.

The Center’s approach to mental health counseling is often described as the integration of the mind-body-spirit connection. But what does that mean? This book is a deep dive exploration of these interconnected parts.

Marcia Meier’s mind shines as she searches her own memories and acknowledges the variable nature of memory. She weaves in her own journalistic research of the history of skin grafting and other intellectual curiosities related to her experience.

Marcia Meier’s flesh displays in this book and everyday as the most public part of the body – the face – is the object. She starts each chapter with surgeon’s notes. She titles her chapters with carnal language such as: lacerations, eyelashes, exposed, and suture.

Marica Meier’s spirit is rebellious. She makes her own decisions on who to forgive, how, and when. And who not. Her painful recollections of Catholic school made me squirm – the abuse and humiliation. Her life improved when she started pubic school. As a teenager she declared no more surgeries. She even messed up the final surgery because she was instructed to hold still for a few days following the procedure. Instead she spent time with friends and laughed a lot, far from keeping her face still. I love that she chose to laugh.

A powerful interplay of the mind-body-spirit connection is offered by Marcia Meier through the verbatim of a counseling session, when her counselor Michael helped her understand that the accident was not her fault:

“Why do you think the accident happened?”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Whose fault was it?”

“Obviously the guy who hit me,” I say.

He smiled. “Yes, that’s true. But shy did he hit you?”

“He was blind in his left eye. He didn’t see me.”

“Uh-huh. But why didn’t he see you?”

“I don’t know…Maybe it was meant to happened,” I say.

“Why?”  …  “Do you believe in fate?

 “I don’t know. I don’t think things happened because God wills it, like its pre-ordained.”

“Do you think you could have prevented it?”

I pause. My mom’s words drift back to me.

“If I hadn’t walked into the crosswalk. . .”

You think you could have topped the car?”

“I should have seen it.”

“Say you had. How quickly do you think you could have gotten out the way? You were in the middle of the crosswalk.”

I couldn’t have gotten out of the way. No one could have.

It was not my fault.

It was not my fault!

Do you believe in God? Michael asked me. (61-62)

Dear reader, I’ll leave it there as a cliffhanger. There’s no way I can do justice to Marica Meier’s answer to this question or the remainder of the book – but Marica Meier certainly does. She has transformed her horrendous childhood experience into art. Her book dedication reads: For anyone who has ever suffered as a Wounded Child. And for Kendall, who fills up my heart.

Our stories  are our own. We need not compare or contrast one trauma with another. Marcia Meier’s experience is hers. Your experience is yours. They are all valid in and of themselves. I think all of our stories have healing properties, especially when they are offered with so much sincerity and grace, as this one is. Thank you Marcia Meier.


For more information about author Marcia Meier and her book Face: A Memoir, please visit www.

Blog: Media review for hope and healing: My Life as a Villianess, Essays by Laura Lippman

My Life as a Villainess, Essays by Laura Lippman

reviewed by Terri Mork Speirs, April 2021

File this in “What I’m reading now.”

Or, “Indulging in my love of Laura Lippman.”

Or, “On beauty and aging.”

Or, “Laughing and self-awareness are good medicine.”

The funny thing about the title of this book is that the author, Laura Lippman, is just another ordinary aging woman – who happens to write about villain-esque women. Her popular psychological thrillers are great summer beach reading, winter recliner reading, weekend chores audio reading, or road trip radio reading. But her characters aren’t really villains, I’d say. They are typically women trying to make their way through impossible situations, and refusing to enter the “women be likeable” trap. Fiction based on truths. Her writing goes right into the villainess’ brains, and the brains of those in their lives. Like deep inside the folds of their reasoning, even to their reptilian parts. The action is the thinking. The thrill is how much we can relate, though we’d rather not admit to it.

However, this review isn’t about Laura Lippman’s fiction. It’s about her book of personal essays which by definition is nonfiction. Personal essays are like short memoir pieces, and if you know me you know that memoir is my favorite genre because it involves reflection of one’s life. Contrary to pop belief, memoir is not about an interesting life – it is about introspection. Memoir seeks to deconstruct and understand one’s self. I’d say the least so-called fascinating lives, make for the best memoirs. Because the most interesting parts of all of us is what happens inside of us.

That’s why I believe that a good personal essay or memoir can be a path to hope and healing. The reader learns they are not alone. For example in this collection Laura Lipman reflects on aging, body image, dieting, looks, and the endless demands on women’s appearance. Laura Lippman admits at age 60 – sixty! – she is still angsting on these things. If you are a female of any age or status who has ever walked through a grocery store magazine rack in the U.S. A., chances are you too angst on looks. We relate, even as we know it’s silly. The reader laughs because self-awareness can be funny. We also know the expectations for women are devastating. And then Laura Lippman brings it home and declares enough of all that. She declares herself gorgeous. Since her self-proclaimed declaration of gorgeousness, she says, she finds all women gorgeous.

The first essay in the collection, “Game of Crones” (ha! ha!), where Laura Lippman reflects on being an older mother, closes as such (language alert):

And maybe the next time — there’s always a next time, trust me — someone says, “Are you her grandmother?” I’ll say: “No I’m her great-grandmother, I’m eighty-(bleeping)-seven, but I look amazing for my age.”

I am old. I am 60. I am a 60-year-old woman with a third-grader. I am old. I am old. I am old. I am 60, my daughter is 8, and I will let her write the end of the story. What other choice do I have?

Hope and healing comes in many forms. Counseling. Education. Reading. Writing. Laughing. Sometimes hope and healing comes in the form of a pill as prescribed by a competent and wonderful medication provider. (For me, checkmark yes to all.) And sometimes it comes the realization that you don’t need to be fixed because you are enough. And you are gorgeous per my personal declaration, modeling Laura Lippman.

What are you reading now?

Terri Mork Speirs is the director of community relations at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

Blog: Media review for hope and healing: I Am Enough by Grace Byers

You are enough — tell the children, remind yourself

by Terri Mork Speirs, director of community relations

February 2021 — When I was 50-something years old I read a line in a poem that changed my life. The first seven words in Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese reads: “You do not have to be good.”

This book serves children and families served through the Center’s C.O.O.L., with thanks to the BWA Foundation

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to be good.

I’m sure I’d been taught in many ways from many people including teachers, family and friends. Yet that line in that poem finally convinced me in my sixth decade of life. I need reminders.

And so now I notice such lines when they happen by me for example:

  • Wherever I am, I am what is missing. ~ Mark Strand (posted as a reminder on my phone)
  • I’m imperfect and I’m enough. ~ Brené Brown (I’m all in for Brené Brown)
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ~ Maya Angelo (my response: because it can! and: good book)

I think words and books have the power to heal.

As part of the community relations team at the Center, it is my privilege to engage with generous community members, and learn from esteemed colleagues. I get to help ask for donations and thank donors. And, I get to learn how the clinicians utilize the resources. It is especially fun discovering resources used for the kiddos served through C.O.O.L. (Children Overcoming the Obstacles in Life).

“I Am Enough” by Grace Byers is one of the recent purchases by our C.O.O.L. clinicians, with thanks to generous funding from the BWA Foundation. The book is used in telehealth sessions with children and families, and has been added to the Center’s lending library. (We hold the hope for a post-pandemic world when we can all access the lending library again!)

The book cover stood out to me for being so very cute, in addition to the wisdom of the title. And how awesome to teach “I am enough” to young ones, and to remind us old ones. 🙂

The video reading by the author, Grace Byers, is delightful.

You do not have to be good. You are enough. Repeat.

Billie’s blog: February 2021

An invitation to sit with your discomfort, allow it to speak to you

Billie Wade, writer

by Billie Wade, PrairieFire graduate

February 2021 – This post heralds a new dawn: addressing the cold, hard reality of racism. I use the term “dawn” to signify the raw truth that for over four hundred years, we remain at the gate of facing and reckoning with racism. Racism, fueled by hate, greed, and fear, is firmly entrenched in our country’s DNA like the pink stain in a plastic refrigerator dish after the spaghetti sauce is removed. We begin where we are, which is always a new place even if we have had a similar experience in the past. Our feelings are cumulative. It is how wisdom is earned.

Since July 2017, I have enjoyed the honor and privilege to share with you a variety of topics and my experience and perspective. As a Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center client for many years, I feel the mission, vision, and values in the environment every time I enter the doors. Now with our interactions on Zoom, those tenets continue to shine through. The Center seeks to understand the clients they serve, and to reach out to underserved demographics. With that said, I now turn my focus to the insidious organism of racism and the trauma of intergenerational Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that remains alive and thriving in 2021.

On May 30, 2020, in response to the brutal, flaunting murder of George Floyd and the attack that murdered Breonna Taylor, the Center put voice to their compassion and solidarity with the Black community. The antiracism statement on the landing page of the website announced formation of the Antiracism Learning Group*. I am delighted and humbled to cofacilitate the group with Terri Speirs, the Center’s director of community relations.

I will use several terms often in my writing. My working definitions are:

  • Racism—a system consisting of rules, laws, policies, and practices designed to disenfranchise nonwhite people. The organism systematically perpetuates the unfounded belief that Black people are inferior and, therefore, suitable for subjugation and exploitation.
  • “I, we, and Black people”—descendants of slaves brought to this country in 1619.
  • “White people”—the collective of members of the privileged race in the United States.
  • White privilege—perks given to White people because of the color of their skin.
  • Appropriation—the use by one culture of the accoutrements of another culture, particularly while forbidding the appropriated culture to enjoy those accoutrements.

Racism began when White people laid eyes on native Africans and deemed them nonhuman. They kidnapped the people and brought them to this country stripped of everything—clothing, dignity, rituals, language, spirituality, family, friends, culture, all human rights—in chains stacked like ears of corn in the holds of cargo ships. Those who died were unceremoniously thrown overboard. Upon arrival in America, families were separated, never to see each other again.

Black people face a plethora of stressors every minute of every day. We are hated, hunted, and profiled. We live in a country where Black and Brown bodies are killed on suspicion of criminality by walking on a street with our hands in our pockets. Where a “routine” traffic stop may end our life. Where laws and policies directed at oppressing us are enacted without our knowledge and input. Policies and laws enacted to support and liberate Black people are swiftly met with counter laws that cancel out the advancement. Case in point: The so-called “war on drugs” is a war on Black people. The drug war is waged only in Black communities. The shop owner called police because he suspected George Floyd may have been attempting to pass a counterfeit $20.00 bill. Why did the situation call for four officers?

The medical and mental health fields acted with remarkable swiftness to address the opioid crisis. Middle- and upper-class White women comprised the largest demographic. They were offered treatment, mental health services, and resources. Their plight was blamed on a highly addictive drug. Black people who are addicted to drugs are labeled criminals (because they are in possession of the drug), drug addicts, and morally deficient.

Some of the material may be hard for you to receive. I encourage you to try to sit with your feelings and discomfort and allow them to speak to you. The discomfort is there for a reason. “What belief is this revelation rubbing up against?” The most potent question to ask yourself is, “How can I see this differently?” If you have a spiritual aspect in your life, you can ask that Power to help you see differently. Once we know something, we can no longer ignore its existence. Then, we bump into the question, “What can I do? I’m but one person and the landscape of racism is enormous.” This appeal is not easily answered. I hope to offer you resources you can explore.

Black people in the United States exist as a “gray” caricature of two disparate societies with clashing ideals and rules. The White collective expects us to adhere to their established cultural norms but to never make the mistake of forgetting our “place” on the human hierarchy—on the sidewalk leading to the ladder, not even close.

I have spent my life trying to maintain balance between the worlds of the Black collective and the White collective. Black people accuse me of imitating White people, of trying to be White. On the other hand, White people see me as friendly and intelligent—and Black. I have been denied raises, promotions, job flexibility to return to school, and subjected to blatant lies.

Everything I share does not apply to all people in every situation. Humans are hardwired with their own set of idiosyncrasies, perspectives, and ways of receiving new information, derived from experience. I make no attempt to address all White people as racist nor all Black people into a single category. With that said, I hope you use discernment to consider the statements I offer and examine your beliefs rather than dismissing a point as “it doesn’t apply to me.”

Much has happened during the past nine months—giant corporations drafted public antiracism statements and policies and enacted procedures to follow through; ordinary citizens created book clubs and discussion groups; people backed “Black Lives Matter” with yard signs, sweaters, and other wearables; churches hung banners on their exterior walls to declare their solidarity; we elected Kamala Harris, the first female, nonwhite vice president of the United States. Black people do have allies who sincerely offer compassion and generosity of time, energy, and resources. People who listen to us, really try to hear what we are not saying as well as what we do say.

We need White people to take the time to ask what we need. We need White people to become sensitive to the intergenerational effects of PTSD. Yes, we desperately need equal opportunities for and access to education, employment, housing, medical and mental healthcare, political and governmental participation and representation, and beneficial networks. We cannot attain these human rights and privileges without help. The media exposes us to the symptoms rather than the disease. As such, I commend all of you, and everyone on the front lines of supporting Black people. Please know you are appreciated.

There remains much to do to address more than four hundred years of racism. While we can view the glimmer of hope, to exhale and say we have arrived is a mistake. A quick fix does not exist. White supremacists push back to maintain the oppression and marginalization. They wait in the background ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.

Over the next month, I challenge you to the following exercise:

  • What do I believe about Black people—not what you want to believe? Write your answers in a notebook to get them out in front of you, out into the open, where you can see them in stark reality.
  • How did I arrive at those beliefs?
  • What proof do I have as the validity of those beliefs?
  • You need share your responses as you feel comfortable. I do not recommend doing so if you feel unsafe.

May your days, weeks, and months unfold in health, safety, joy, and peace.

More from Billie’s blog:

*If you are interested in joining the anti-racism learning group, please email