What becomes of the brokenhearted?

What becomes of the brokenhearted
Who had love that’s now departed?
I know I’ve got to find
Some kind of peace of mind.

The loss of a child is a devastation that can never be adequately described. For those forced to endure such tragedy, it instantly becomes a stark, defining moment. Everything else is relegated to merely something that happened before or after that seminal event.

My wife and I unexpectedly began that solemn journey more than 17 years ago in a hospital room. Holding the lifeless body of your first born on a sad spring day is a moment forever chiseled in memory. The shattering finality challenges everything you think you know about yourself, your family and your faith.

That sense of loss came back with frightening clarity on Friday when I heard the news of the shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut. Like millions of others, I watched an obviously distraught Barack Obama fight to compose himself while making a statement in the White House briefing room. When the president said “our hearts are broken,” the phrase aptly described the unimaginable grief confronting all involved.

What becomes of the brokenhearted? Singer Jimmy Ruffin asked that question in his classic 1966 song of the same name, and the heartfelt lyrics resonate still. It’s a tough question in a sea of tough questions that people around our nation are asking after an unthinkable massacre.

While we mourn the dead and absorb the initial shock, the airwaves will be filled with discussions about how to prevent future tragedies. The pundits and policymakers will wrestle with issues that have dogged mankind for centuries.

How can we legislate and regulate effectively against the evil nature of the human heart, whether it’s a lone gunman or a power-hungry tyrant? To be sure, there are some sensible steps that can be taken to reduce the frequency or the likelihood of such incidents. But not even the most organized society has the resources to prevent every determined, degenerate soul from inflicting deadly plans on the innocent. History, from Herod to Hitler, is a grim reminder of this reality.

Above and beyond our law enforcement and judicial systems, one of the best weapons in our arsenal is forgiveness. If more people could forgive themselves, they would be less likely to lash out and break the hearts of others. If more people could forgive their family members, friends and co-workers, the seeds of resentment and revenge would fail to take root. More emphasis on forgiveness would break many cycles of violence.

A parent of one of the Sandy Hook victims shows us the way.