Healing from the Las Vegas Shootings

Beginning the Journey

The horrible event that occurred in Las Vegas this week reminds me that there is evil in the world. One cold blooded active-shooter made a deliberate choice to use his altered weapons to rain down hell of an innocent, unsuspecting crowd of concert attendees. With a twenty-four-hour news cycle, i.e. Fox News, CNN and other news outlets, it is difficult not to be bombarded by the overload of video, audio, and talking heads. One of the issues of nonstop disaster coverage, particularly of heinous events like the Las Vegas shooting is that it amplifies our fear and dulls our senses. More importantly, if we allow our children to watch it with us, there is no telling what damage we could be doing to their innocent psyches.

As I heard the news, I felt this deep, twisting sense of heaviness and sadness in my heart. I cannot imagine what that night must have been like for those attending the event as well as the thousands of others that would be pulled into the tragedy of that night. Oddly, I also felt that help was one the way. I have counselor friends, peer support team members, as well as Disaster Mental Health Chaplains who would be on their way to help. Just as they had at Aurora, Sandy Hook, Orlando and other places that had experienced manmade acts of terrorism

With that in mind, I wanted to share some things you can do to deal with some of the emotional aftermath so such a horrible event. Besides working as a therapist, author, and speaker, I am a Crisis Response Specialist who works with businesses and communities after they experience workplace violence and trauma.

When any mass shooting or another type of man-made traumatic event or natural disaster, it is normal to feel anxious, scared and uncertain about what the future could bring. Usually, these unsettling thoughts and feelings fade as life begins to return to new routine. You can assist the process by keeping the following in mind:

⋄ People react in different ways to traumatic events

⋄ Avoid obsessively thinking about the disastrous event

⋄ Ignoring feelings will slow the healing process

⋄ Talking about what you feel may be difficult, but it will help you heal

⋄ Being proactive about you and your family’s situation and well-being (rather than passively waiting for someone else to help you) will help decrease feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability. Focus on anything that allows you and your family feel safe, calm and secure.

Here are some recovery tips:

• Re-establish the routines of your personal and family life

• Connect with others in your neighborhood, workgroup or place of worship

• Challenge any thoughts of helplessness

• Minimize media exposure

• Make stress reduction a priority

Tips for helping your kids cope:

• Provide your kids with ongoing opportunities to talk about what they may be feeling and thinking.

• If you do not know the answer to a question they have, don’t be afraid to admit it.

• The repeated exposure to media may trigger or bring up unrelated fears and issues in your kids. As much as possible, restrict their exposure to news stories about the event.

• Remember that children often personalize situations. They may worry about their safety or that of their family, even if the traumatic event occurred far away. Reassure your child and help him or her to place the situation in context.

• Watch for physical signs of stress, crying, insomnia, excess fear, and worry.

Humans are designed to be resilient. In several studies, Dr. George Bonano’s, The Other Side of Sadness, identifies resilience as the core experience of most people who experience trauma. By resilience is meant the ability of individuals exposed to a potentially highly disruptive to maintain both healthy psychological and physical functioning and the capacity for positive emotions.

While many are still reeling over the events of last Sunday, I can tell you both based on my years of work in this field as well as a growing body of research that we as individuals, families, and Americans will take care of the dead and injured, support each other and experience positive post-traumatic growth because we are America Strong.

I hope that these words from the New Testament will help you and your family in the days and weeks ahead.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. “

2 Corinthians 1:3–5 NLT

I will follow this blog with two more. One Friday I will talk about the heroes of that day, and what it is that makes people do heroic things when facing certain danger. On Sunday, I will give you some things to think about when it comes to everyday resilience.

Tell what you are thinking by making a comment. I look forward to hearing from you.

Counselor, WorkLife Consultant/Coach, published author, photographer, spouse and grandpa. Retired Army Chaplain www.johnthurman.net.