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