When loss happens through tragedy in your family or community, people experience a sense of trauma, collectively feeling each other’s pain and heartbreak. The extent in which the trauma affects each person depends on myriad factors and circumstances, based on how close they are to the tragedy and their own experiences. However, the nation as a whole can collectively feel a sense of sadness and anger when terror and hate takes the lives of innocent people.
As we have seen too often lately, tragedy occurs and affects (perhaps disproportionately) all people, whether they are directly impacted or not. The recent events in Orlando, Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas remind us that tragedy occurs and that loss of life is the most difficult event to experience. The grief will last for a lifetime for family and friends of the victims.
As a marriage and family therapist, I work with trauma, loss and grief, helping adults and children process their feelings and thoughts to lessen their pain. To move forward after trauma such as these, we need to collectively embrace the healing process together to begin to ease the painful emotions.
Being able to experience pain and recognize this hurt and sadness is the first step to healing tender emotions. I often tell people that recognizing the feeling is half the battle, and learning how to manage your hurt and pain is the second half. If you can identify it, you can transform the sadness and feel better with some tools and emotional-management techniques. Symptoms of depression and anxiety may come with trauma, so it is important to be able to talk to a professional if this occurs.
But after you recognize the hurt or pain, how do you begin the healing process? Children might seem isolated or act out due to their fears or sadness. It is important to open up communication with your children so they can express their feelings to you. It is just as important for the adults to be able to talk to children so that all can heal, process feelings/thoughts and open up conversations in your homes.
Here are a few ways you can help yourself and other heal after a tragedy:
Limit your exposure to the news or internet
There is an abundance of news reports and updates daily. If you feel like you need to limit what you watch, then this may help you to not have all your attention on the tragedy.
Get involved or volunteer
Giving donations, time or support to others is a way to heal through community.
Seek out someone to share your thoughts and feelings with
Therapy can help you work through the issues, but talking about it with friends and family can be beneficial as well.
Help children to open up by getting them to share their feelings and thoughts in art or writing
You can sit down with your kids and ask them to share with you what questions they have about the recent tragic events that occurred.
Journal or write out your thoughts
Freeform writing is a great way to help you take stock of your thoughts and feelings.
Spend time with gratitude and thankfulness
Reach out to family and friends, and show your kindness and love in the face of fear and hatred.
Balance your time between focusing on healing and day-to-day tasks
Get back into hobbies or exercise to release some of the stress or anxiety.
Find goodness in people by focusing on the helpers
Look to the first-responders, firemen and policemen, for the amazing work they do. During the Paris attacks, a video emerged showing a father explaining to his son about the attacks in a heartfelt moment captured.
Trauma is something that can be healed, and the journey to find peace and contentment is possible with the right tools and support. The most important thing to do is to reach out for help if you feel you need it. Being able to work together in times of tragedy are what bring people together to collectively heal and make change.