Five things to help with the grief many are feeling in the aftermath of the shootings: Turn off the media if it’s too much; do nice things for other people; take inventory of the good things in life; take care of yourself — exercise and good diet; pay attention to the kids in your life and listen when they want to talk — help them process the grief they might feel.
This photo and these tips come from a blogpost on Hello Grief on how to move through this recent tragedy. It’s important to take care of ourselves so the grief doesn’t get too big for us. Here’s what Alisha Krukowski recommends:
- Put yourself on an immediate “news diet.” Make a conscious and implementable plan about your news intake. That may mean allowing yourself to check in briefly with the news once every two hours. Or perhaps you’ll decide that giving yourself one solid hour, and then no other news for the day is a better fit. Regardless of your specific decision, make a plan and commit to sticking to it. Let friends and family know, so they are able to respect and support your choice. Take note of how you feel after checking in with the news. If you find you feel worse than before you checked in, more reason to limit your news intake. Tragedy is not, and should not be a spectator sport.
- Do something kind. It doesn’t matter what you do, but make a point to do something good or kind today, and each day as the crisis continues to unfold. Let someone ahead of you in traffic, leave a few extra dollars for your waitress, take your dog (and yourself) on an extra long walk. I’m betting you’ll feel better after doing something kind for someone else. There’s something inherently therapeutic about acts of kindness, which can help you to balance out the negative emotions you may find yourself inundated with in times of publicized sorrow.
- Refrain from posting “news” of the events on facebook, twitter, etc. If you feel inclined to post about your feelings of sadness, your wishes for impacted families, or your thoughts on tragedy in general, that may be something to consider. But posting updates about the tragedy itself will likely not help you or others. The specifics are often irrelevant, since the facts remain the same: Something terrible happened. Innocent individuals were injured or killed. There will never, ever be any bit of information or any new development that will make any of this make sense.
- Reach out to those you love, and tell them you love them. It sounds a little clichéd, I know, but have you ever felt anything other than good after sharing your feelings of love or friendship with people in your life? It’s an easy way to both offer support, and feel support yourself.
- Ask for help if you need help. If the news of tragedy has left you feeling overwhelmed with grief, sadness, fear, or any other emotion, please seek immediate support. If you need a shoulder to cry on, call a friend or family member. If you feel that you are in crisis, call 1-800-273-8255 or go immediately to your local emergency room.
- If you have children in your life, be mindful of what they may be seeing and hearing. Again, I am not a therapist, but it is always a good idea to ask your children what they are feeling, and how you can help them to process those feelings. They may have created some “truths” in their minds that are not accurate or helpful for them to be holding. Ask them what they have learned. If you have any concerns about how to support your child through tragic events, you should reach out to school or grief counselors, therapists, or other local support services.
- Physically do something to help. This doesn’t mean you have to fly to the impacted areas. This means choosing to devote time, energy, or money to a cause that is close to your heart. You can volunteer at a homeless shelter, send money (even a few dollars) to an organization that speaks to you, or help to clean up litter at an underfunded playground or park. When you immerse yourself in something that is helping those in need, you may feel a sense of connection to people everywhere who are helping where help is needed. It’s a good feeling, and again, that can help to balance out some of the negative feelings.
In response to a school shooting tragedy, many children may have questions and concerns. The ICHOC offers the following suggestions to help guide parents, teachers, and caring adults to best support children who may be grieving, concerned, or troubled by the school shooting:
- Children will benefit greatly from support and caring expressed by the adults in their lives. Create an environment in your home or classroom that encourages respect for each other’s feelings and fears, and allows for a supportive, healing environment.
- Let children know that you are available to talk with them.
- Let children ask questions.
- It is ok if you do not have answers to all the questions. It is ok to let your child know that you do not have the answer but that you will try and find out.
- Let children know about the support being provided to students, friends, and families of the victims.
- Be aware of children who may have experienced a previous trauma and may be more vulnerable to experiencing prolonged or intense reactions and will need extra support.
- Acknowledge the frightening parts of the event.
- Explain what happened in words that children understand. Explanations should be appropriate to the child’s age, developmental stage, and language skills.
- Reassure children that they are loved and will be taken care of.
- Children who have concerns about siblings who are living on a college campus or have concerns about safety at their own school should be reassured and their concerns validated.
- Be aware of how you talk about the event and cope with the tragedy. Children learn about how to react to traumatic situations by watching and listening to parents, peers, and the media.
- Reduce or eliminate your child’s exposure to television images and news coverage of the shooting. The frightening images and repetition of the scenes can be disturbing for children. If they do see coverage, be sure to talk with them about what they saw and what they understood about the coverage. Make sure to correct any misunderstanding or misinterpretations.
- Maintain your child’s routine as best as possible.
- For children who are too young to talk or do not feel comfortable talking about their feelings, expressive techniques such as play, art and music can provide additional ways for children to express their feelings and let you know what may be troubling them.
Many behaviors and symptoms of stress are normal for children who have just experienced a trauma. However, if you find that your child is preoccupied with the event, has ongoing sleep or eating disturbances, is experiencing intrusive thoughts or worries, is focused on fears about death, or is having difficulty going to school and leaving parents, your child should be evaluated by a mental health professional. Contact your pediatrician, family physician, or school counselor if you feel that the symptoms are persisting and are interfering with your child’s daily routines.
For more information and resources about children and traumatic stress, please visit our website at www.dcchildrens.com/ichoc. Fact sheets and other resources for parents, schools and professionals are available under the Resource section.
Copyright © by Children’s National Medical Center
Department of Psychiatry
International Center to Heal Our Children
Fact Sheets for Healing Series
Wow, I suppose that’s true in a way. After her dad died in 2004, I have tried to make the holidays special each year, but haven’t found anything the sticks year after year except our ritual of buying new jigsaw puzzles, bringing out the card table, and setting up for evenings of puzzling. As we sat down the other night, I wondered about this tradition since our loss – the satisfaction of seeing the beautiful images unfold before our eyes as we fit the pieces together, a symbolic road map through grief. Michael’s death brought a sense of chaos and uncertainty to our lives — the pieces didn’t fit in the way they had. Not much about the holidays made sense to me, either. What got us through year after year was the patient step by step, trying and failing, trying again and succeeding, bringing a chaotic mess of little pieces into something organized. And now, I’d say that life does make sense. This year we picked easier puzzles and we’ve already completed two. I suppose the easy puzzles reflect that life is easier this holiday season. We are blessed to have each other and a tradition that has helped us through this difficult time of year.
Life is so fragile and precious. A friend died this week, another friend has ALS, another 2 have breast cancer, one is in hospital with unknown cause of infection, and yet another lost his brother last week. My prayers and thoughts are with them all. Then there are their beloved family members left behind, or caretaking. Please love the caretakers. It is a soul draining job when it goes on and on, as it often does. Take them out for some fun, stay with the sick person so the caretaker can get out, listen, ask how you can help. We are all connected. When one suffers, we all suffer. When one gives relief, we all breathe easier. Love those who you have been given to love and reconcile with those that you are in tension with. Life is too short and holy to let the little things interfere – and most of them are little things, when you think of the big picture. Thanks for listening.
“Nothing is normal in grief and no two mourners are the same,” says an article republished on the Hello Grief website: The way we grieve now (Original article by Piper Wise).
Take a look at this article filled with stories of how different people have coped with their grief and created new relationships with those they have loved. It’s a good reminder that you get to mourn in your own way.
This past week, I participated on a panel at the local high school’s Parent Academy – the topic was single parenting. Many parents unexpectedly find themselves alone, either through divorce or death of the other parent. It’s a shock, really. It was for me. When my former husband passed away unexpectedly leaving me to raise our daughter by myself, I felt closed in and afraid. It felt too big, more responsibility than I ever wanted. Her grief, my own, our changed lives…how would we get through it?
We did get through it, day at a time…which brings me back to what I learned at the Parent Academy. Here’s some things I gleaned from the panel and audience participants:
Common challenges for single parents:
• Lack of Sleep
• Emotional stress
• Time management
• A lack of sanity
• Challenges with kids’ attitudes and accountability
Ways to take care of yourself:
• Exercise – one woman started running every day and lost 40 pounds
• Drinking water—keeping yourself hydrated helps to fend off depression feelings
• Find friends you can talk to about your challenges with kids and getting time for yourself
• Take time for yourself in nature—one woman walks under the moon and stars at night
• Dance to wild music when the kids aren’t around
• Start a gratitude journal for yourself…or share it with your kids so that you all practice gratitude
Ways to connect better with your kids:
• Set aside special time for your kids—they want time with you, even if they are teens
• Appreciate them for the things they do well
• Set reachable goals—make a chart with tasks that you expect and make a reward for getting a certain number done
• Work with your child on the things you expect and let them come up with some ideas
• Find grief support groups for them in your local community
• Realize that underneath bad behaviors is deep loss—help your kids learn to grieve in healthy ways
If you are a single parent, please share what works for you!
…our culture does not welcome expressions of either grief or mourning. Indeed, there tends to be an expectation that we should either put on a stoic face or “just get over it.” The process takes time. I feel the best and most difficult thing I can do during the holidays, or any other time, is to lean into what I’m feeling, i.e., feel what I feel when I feel it.
Grief and mourning comes in states and in waves—acknowledging and honoring those feelings is how I move those thick energies. Shutting down to them or closing them off only delays healing and prolongs suffering—it doesn’t lessen until it’s leaned into. Yep, there are times when the waves rise in places or situations where they cannot easily be acknowledged and honored (due to social normative expectations). In those cases, I’ve set aside what was coming up and then re-opened to them as soon as possible in a place that is safe and welcoming.
Also, honoring times of the year when losses occurred is very important to me. There are certain times of the year when memories rise for me—three times of the year in particular: 10/23 (1983 USMC bombing in Beirut), Vet’s Day, and Memorial Day. A lot of my friends were killed when I was in the service. Around those dates, I’m kind to myself. I take things off my plate; I allow time for myself and take better care of myself. These are quiet times for me—I take times out in stillness. And I also take time out for my old friends and occasionally have a good cry. Likewise, I watch out for depression—that’s a different kettle of fish. Again, it’s about leaning in rather than self-distracting.
I’m an experiential learner…what I’ve shared is how I learned to cope well with grief and mourning. It’s a process and it is a marvelous, albeit at times very painful, softening when we let what’s real come through—it’s through grief and mourning where I have softened the most. I have given and received incredible forgiveness, learned tremendous compassion and mercy for both myself and others, become a much kinder and gentler person, and much more…it does get better and the gifts that come are beyond words.
I found a new website called Widow’s Voice…it’s seven widows each writing on a particular day each week. The stuff they write about is deep and may resonate with our clients who have lost a beloved spouse. Check it out!