Sadly, the state our nation is such that school shootings have become a regular part of news reports. And while each tragedy is unique in the details, victims, environment, and perpetrators, the common dominator is a desire to return to normal as soon as possible.
These catastrophes often unite friends, families, communities, and causes. The irony is that most perpetrators want to destroy the lives around them, generate fear in their victims, and isolate instead of unify. But instead, volunteers come together in droves, money is raised in support of the victim’s families and communities have slogans of strength and fortitude.
Yet the heaviness of the situation remains and cries out to be healed. Attempts at normalization are hard. Here are 8 steps that can improve the process. This can be used for adults and students who are directly or indirectly impacted by the trauma. Even hearing about school shootings second hand can often trigger anxiety and depression. This is a time to care for self and others.
- Write it down. Everyone has a unique story to share. For some this tragedy was only experienced second hand while others lost everything including someone they love. The act of putting it down on paper helps to focus on accurate memory and reminds a person what they have survived through.
- Talk to neighbors. This is a time to reach out to neighbors and friends to make sure that they are OK. Shared common experiences are far better than trying to handle this alone. Take time to talk to others and form a bond of healing. Don’t assume everything is OK, check on one another.
- Be cautious. Over the next few days following a shooting, there will be multiple news stories. Not all of these are appropriate for children or students to hear. Even some adults might find that the information is too heavy, be cautious of what is absorbed and any images that are viewed. Some pictures are unforgettable and can escalate a traumatic experience.
- Stay present. There is a temptation to relive the past and worry about the future. This can drain precious energy needed for the present day. Instead, make an effort to accomplish only what can be done today and not be anxious about tomorrow. Tomorrow’s worries will be enough for that day.
- Listen to others. One of the best gifts to offer others is that of listening. Listen to the stories, fears, hopes, and sorrows. Those tempted to give advice during this time are doing a disservice to others, most people just want and need to be heard. If they want advice, they will ask for it. For those seeking advice, please DO NOT look for it from a person who is not professionally trained in trauma care. This is the equivalent of getting parenting advice from a person who has never parented.
- Begin to grieve. The grieving process for any loss of a person, safety, or community is the same. It is denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The duration varies depending on the significance of the loss. For instance, grief over an image can take a few weeks, while grieving a person can take years. Expect to ping-pong from one stage to the next in a random order.
- Release emotions. One of the best ways to release emotional stress is to cry. Crying releases sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, and stress. Physical activity is another good method to let off some stem. This is not the time to unleash onto family members, friends, the school, or others trying to help. This only generates hostility and increases isolation.
- Do normal activities. As soon as possible, try to reengage in normal routines and activities. Even if the only possibility is a morning shower, it is better to start with something that is even slightly familiar. Try to stick to regular bedtimes and wake times. This allows the body to reset and feel healthy. Eating normal foods and drinks can also help during this time. The last thing a nervous stomach needs is strange foods.
Most definitely, those who have suffered the loss of a loved one will have a difficult time for a while. Patience, grace, compassion, and understanding should be showered on them as they heal. It often takes the love and support of an entire community to help those suffering right now.