Tragedy in Las Vegas: Strategies for Psychological Healing
How to process, talk with children, and help others.
Posted October 3, 2017
We are appalled and heartbroken by the horrific mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas this week. To think how many concert-goers were there, just living their life and innocently having fun in a place known to be relaxing and enjoyable, only to be changed forever by the actions of a sole shooter, is incomprehensible. For many of us, it's hard to find the right words to describe how we are feeling, so instead, we turn to logic, and we find ourselves wanting to find an answer for why this tragedy happened.
Still, many are in disbelief; not understanding how something like this can happen (at all, and perhaps even more, again). Situations like this are hard to comprehend and understand. And as much as we try, there’s a good chance that we will never totally understand the why, especially when there is very little way to make sense of the senseless.
Despite the fact that what happened in Vegas is now the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, this tragic event is only amplified by the number of traumatic events that have preceded it. In the wake of the numerous worldwide traumatic events and mass shootings, it is important that you take care of yourself and your family. This article is written to provide information on how to cope during this difficult time.
How to psychologically process
During this time, it is incredibly helpful not to avoid how you are feeling and what you are thinking. Find others who you can openly speak with, and discuss what is on your mind. Share your fears, your heartache, anger, disgust, etc. Whatever it is, share it. Repressing your innermost thoughts and emotions does not make them disappear, but instead, they are likely to intensify. If you have been personally impacted by the shooting, whether you were present at the concert or know someone who was, it is imperative that you allow yourself the time and emotional space to process what has happened. For many in Florida, the Vegas shooting hits too close to home after the Pulse nightclub shooting that took place in 2016.
The key to psychologically processing what has happened is to think about it, talk about it, journal about it, etc. Don’t avoid it.
How to help others
You are not alone in your thoughts and feelings about what has happened, and just as you need support, those around you likely do, as well. If you know someone who was present during the attack or someone whose loved one perhaps passed away or was injured, it is incredibly important to know how to help them through this difficult time. The best thing you can do is to simply listen and be supportive. Don’t minimize their feelings, reactions, or pain. Everything you or they are going through after a tragedy such as this is both completely normal and healthy (and must occur if effective healing is to happen). Being a good friend or family member means being available and listening with empathy.
Likewise, perhaps you know someone who has been in a similar situation, and the Vegas shooting is a strong trigger for them. The Vegas shooting is only likely to bring up disturbing memories, images, nightmares, anger, emotional pain, etc. If this is you, it is important to acknowledge your thoughts and emotions. If this is someone you know, it is important to be there for them by listening with understanding, being supportive, and letting them share anything they are thinking and feeling.
If the Las Vegas shooting has personally impacted you, or you are still healing from a past traumatic experience, it is imperative that you seek help sooner rather than later. This is not to say that waiting for treatment reduces its efficacy, but you are likely to experience less pain and suffering the sooner that you reach out. There are excellent therapies that can help you to face what has happened in a safe and healthy manner, process it, and heal from it. Seek out the help of a trauma specialist, who has the training and background necessary to help you heal and regain your life after tragedy strikes.
How to help your kids
Some parents may be wondering how to discuss the Las Vegas shooting with their children. This is an important dialogue as many children have questions about what has happened and why. The key to this discussion is to give them the facts, while also providing reassurance. Be honest with your kids about what has happened. Don’t sugarcoat what happened, don’t make light of it, but also explain it in kid terms (i.e., don’t try to talk with them as if they are adults). It is completely acceptable to say you don’t why this happened and to remind them that while there are people who do bad things, there are far more good people in this world.
Let your child share their feelings and what is on their mind. Provide a safe and comfortable space for them to share their fears. Don’t tell them their thoughts and feelings are wrong, but instead express understanding and reassure them that many people want a safer world and are working towards that. Reduce (not eliminate) exposure to news or other media sources that can bombard them with video or images of the shooting. If your child(ren) seems to be struggling with this tragedy despite your best efforts, schedule an appointment with a psychologist to get them professional assistance.
Given the number of mass shootings that have occurred in recent years, it is not uncommon to have the thought “I’m not safe anywhere.” However, it is important to realize that these events are still unlikely to happen. If you find yourself avoiding going places, you allow these situations to control you and limit your activities. Staying inside your house will certainly more than likely prevent this from happening to you, but it also prevents you from having any quality of life. Living your life in constant fear is not at all living your life. If you find yourself plagued by these thoughts and changes in your behavior, there are effective treatments that are likely to help.