Feb 15, 2023

Responding to Tragedy by Engaging in Brave Conversations

Brotherhood Mental Health Phi Delt Volunteers
Responding to Tragedy by Engaging in Brave Conversations

By Michael Schulte, Phi Delta Theta Chaplain

There is no easy way to say it. On Monday evening, Brian Fraser, president of the Michigan Beta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta, was killed in a mass shooting event at Michigan State University. Brian’s death is a tragedy; he had so much life left to live. Together, the entire Phi Delta Theta Fraternity mourns the loss of our brother. We send our deepest sympathies to Brian’s family and friends. As a Fraternity, we are doing everything we can to support our brothers at Michigan Beta by providing them with the resources they need to grieve this devastating loss.

While supporting Michigan Beta remains our primary focus, the Fraternity realizes that mass shooting events, especially ones that hit so close to home, have the potential to trigger difficult emotions in brothers across our organization. We encourage all of our undergraduate leaders to take time to process this event at their next chapter meeting.

To process this event, we encourage our chapter presidents to collaborate with their chaplain to do the following:

Schedule a time to engage in brave conversation about this event at your next chapter meeting.

Introduce the conversation by summarizing what happened and laying out ground rules. Let members know that this space is for them to share their honest emotional reactions. Each member should feel free to share or not share without fear of judgment. Be sure to remind members that there is no right response to a tragedy. All emotional responses are valid.

Your chapter may already engage in structured conversations like Pass the Gavel. If so, use that structure to facilitate the exchange. Just be sure to frame the discussion as an opportunity to process what happened at Michigan State.

As members share, be comfortable with silence. Remember that this conversation does not need to be a place for solutions or unsolicited advice. It is simply a space to be present with each other. Facilitators should not feel pressured to respond to every comment.

You might also conclude the conversation by inviting members to share positives from their week or by engaging in a gratitude practice that allows members to share things they are grateful for, even in the midst of tragedy.

Once you have given ample time for conversation, end the discussion by reminding members of the various resources available on campus for them to process their grief. You might even distribute the contact information for the college or university counseling center at the meeting. You might also direct them to the Fraternity’s individual emotional health resource document.

Finally, remind members that the chapter’s chaplain, or the designated mental health chairman, is there to engage in further conversations with members if they are experiencing difficult emotions relating to this event. Be sure to refer members to professional services as needed.

By engaging in brave conversations, we can ensure that members across the Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity have access to the care and support they need to process this horrific event. Together, we can be our brother’s keepers.

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