Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Healing after Tragedy

The unspeakable horror experienced by Las Vegas concert goers on Sunday was more than unnerving, it was debilitating and gut-wrenching. The effects of this traumatic tragedy will be felt for a very long time. For me, it was the “last straw” in a string of horrific recent world events. I was and still am struggling to make sense of the suffering that is taking place in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean Islands, in Houston and in Florida post Hurricanes; and in Mexico post-Earthquakes. The political divisiveness and inefficiency in the US and its ripple effects throughout the world is certainly not helping matters and has felt life-altering since the election.

In session, many of my clients have been sharing the strong feelings these events bring up for them: fear, anger, outrage, fury, disbelief, helplessness, hopelessness, confusion, curiosity, empathy and compassion. My job as a trauma therapist is to help clients regain some sense of safety, experience their feelings in a safe, nonjudgmental space and heal from their personal and collective traumas.

Plenty of research shows that people can regain an improved sense of well-being by taking action to help others who are suffering, including survivors of mass disasters and traumas, Although many of us feel that we have little to nothing to offer, this is never truly the case.

Although I have fantasies of making like Pitbull and flying my (imaginary) private plane to Puerto Rico to help, for me that is not realistic. I can however, send a donation to relief organizations and offer a spot at no charge for a local individual in need of trauma therapy.

Consider making a donation, no matter how small, to a well-regarded relief or political organization whose mission you embrace. Check them out first: charitywatch or charitynavigator. Send thank you letters to first responders or call a Dunkin Donuts in Las Vegas and buy coffee and donuts to be delivered to the ER in one of the hospitals or first responder organizations. If a story you read about one of the victims and their families moves you, see if you can locate their address and send a condolence letter. Whether you are religious or not, prayer is very healing.  The benefits of prayers are magnified if done in a live, virtual or energetic community. 

Courtesy of Las Vegas Review Journal
Small, local acts of kindness are also healing. Check on a neighbor who lives alone, wave someone in to long line of traffic, thank a teacher or other “giver” who is in your life. Tell them how much they mean to you.

Make a call or send an email to your local legislators to voice your opinion about gun control, climate control, or insurance coverage. Consider joining a political organization that stands for the change you want to see in the world. Try hard to stay involved- change takes time and persistence. For more on how to heal through action, you may want to check out the post I wrote after the Sandy Hook tragedy: self-helpsage.blogspot.

In addition to taking action and helping others, it’s incredibly important to take extra good care of yourself in challenging times. Don’t forget to be extra kind to yourself and your family and get adequate sleep; and regular, healthy meals and exercise. If outdoor exercise is possible for you, do it! It is even better for mood than an indoor workout.

Check out Sunnyskyz, a "good news" website. Be wary of reading or watching extensive news coverage.  This makes most of us feel worse, not better. Think about watching a favorite movie or show, reading an uplifting book, listening to music, or reaching out by phone to a beloved friend or relative. If overwhelming feelings persist, try meditating, journaling or writing a list of people or things you are grateful for. If you start to worry that you are a loved one are really struggling with mood or behavior, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help. We are living in challenging times and positive, human connection is powerful.  

Sending peace and healing,