How Can We Support Each Other?
Mukilteo has been shaken by the fatal shooting that occurred on Saturday night. We are all devastated by losing three of our young people, and another injured. For the young man who pulled the trigger, he is facing life altering charges.
In such traumatic events, we witness very different reactions from people: some cry openly, others are looking for the comfort of their friends, some need to talk about it, some are withdrawn and others look numb. The pain can be manifested in very different forms at different times. There is no right or wrong way to process traumatic events.
Everybody grieves in an individual way. However some basic stages of grief can be recognized in almost everyone’s reaction.
– when we first learn about a traumatic event or great loss, we feel shocked. Initially, we might deny or try to deny. However, when reality hits our body and soul, we react with a strong stress response. We might cry, shake, experience insomnia or refuse to eat.
– almost unavoidable is the fact that we got angry towards the person who caused the damage. It could originate from the person who left us or anybody who was not able to prevent the tragedy. We can feel guilt and blame ourselves because we did not do something different.
– after the most intense feelings sidetrack, we begin to feel the weight of the loss. I do not consider it depression, because it is a completely normal reaction to losing something important. It has nothing to do with the mental illness. You cannot spare yourself from it. If you try, you might not get to the end of the grief.
– after a longer period of intense negative feelings, the sting of the pain gradually dissipates and apathy takes over: feeling no pain, but not happiness as well. This is a kind of defense from the pain, but not the natural “base line”.
Coming to term
– after many waves of anger, sorrow and apathy, feeling better, feeling worst most of the time, we can come to terms with what life threw at us.
I know! Some days after the shooting, it is unimaginable that we can ever come to terms with such an incomprehensible loss.
What can we do to help each other and our children during this painful process?
Acknowledge the fact that we face difficult times.
Denial does not help to solve any problem.
Accept the different way of grieving.
Do not ignore, put down, reject, judge or ridicule whoever processes differently than you. Some are more expressive with their feelings, while others cannot show them at all. It is all fine.
Provide a safe place for processing, physically, mentally.
Let the stories out, let the feelings out, and let the tears out in an accepting, supportive environment. Knowing that the survivors are here for each other and accepting every feeling and thought can be the most important thing that we can give each other.
Exercise breaks down the stress hormones. Take a walk, go for a swim or hit the gym, whatever works for you!
Nature has its calming effect on many of us.
If you are one of them, use it for your advantage: go to the beach, to a park or to the woods.
Music – listen to calming, soothing music.
People – Look for a connection with your support people. Don’t isolate yourself. Accept help.
Avoid alcohol and drugs.
Although it might ease the stress momentarily, it creates more problems in the long run. I addition, it elongates the grief by interfering with it.
Limit decisions for today’s needs.
Being deeply disturbed is not the time for making long term decisions.
Gradually return to your daily routine.
Making it through the days by focusing on your normal daily assignments brings back the normalcy faster. As hard as it is, it keeps you away from dangerous stress responses like reaching for alcohol or getting lost in extreme negative thoughts.
Mukilteo encountered one of its most devastating tragedies of our times, but the community already made its choice that you can see all around social media:
Stay strong, and choose love instead of hate.
I am more than happy to help!
First consultation is free.
We can talk further options then.