COPING WITH TRAGEDY
People everywhere were shocked and saddened by the tragic deaths of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday. Beyond those feelings were a host of other emotions that can take some time to acknowledge and then to understand. We only hope that we can come together to help each other with the feelings and thoughts that arise at times like this.
you can do: listen & acknowledge
How can you help a friend or family member as they confront this tragedy? Start first by listening, to allow them to say what comes to mind for them and to take the first steps toward finding some calm or sense of safety. They may first, though, find that they are experiencing feelings of anger and frustration, confusion and helplessness, fear or hopelessness as well as sadness and grief. Just acknowledging those feelings and letting them know that others feel that way can be of great benefit.
You may have to help them clarify just how the issue presents itself to them. Defining the way in which the tragedy has affected them personally can be very confusing, but when they begin to understand it, they can take steps toward healing themselves and determining what to do next.
You can help them to set a goal for themselves and to make a plan for achieving it. Maybe, for example, they’d like first to be with others to express their grief and to feel connected with their own community through attending a vigil. Next, they might want to channel their feelings and thoughts to take action on the issues of school safety, mental health, or gun control. They could join like-minded people in working for these causes.
Seeking additional help
You might find that part of their distress arises from their own prior experience of tragedy or trauma. This recent event may have brought up older or unresolved feelings from their own childhood. You can encourage them to seek a professional psychotherapist to aid them in resolving those issues.
As you help a friend through these steps, you may find that you’re helping yourself too.
Listening to their feelings may aid you in understanding your own, and assisting them to seek positive action can help you consider what you too can do in the wake of a terrible tragedy.