We at the COPE Foundation can understand how hearing about death in the news can bring up strong emotions. It can cause an intensity of feelings to resurface that you thought may have passed. It is common for strong feelings of loss to emerge in the wake of public violence and loss. With the recent mass shootings, we wanted to take the time to address how both adults and children may react.
For adults, the biggest question is usually “why” and the reasons behind the event. There may be no satisfactory answers to the “why.” What we do know is that events like mass shooting elicit a wide variety of emotional responses. These feelings can include shock, sorrow, numbness, fear, anger, disillusionment, grief and others. You may find that you have trouble sleeping, concentrating, eating or remembering even simple tasks. This is normal. Although people are resilient and often bounce back after difficult times, these events nearly always interrupt our sense of order and safety. It will take some time to re-establish a sense of equilibrium at a time when you may feel the world is a more dangerous place than you did merely days before.
For children, according to Scott Bamborugh, a former social worker now a local pastor “the bigger impact for children … is going to be the fear and the confusion.” Openly discussing and answering questions in an age appropriate way will help to alleviate fear and confusion.
Here are some tips for both adults and children to help cope in the aftermath of mass shootings:
Talk about it: Do not pretend it did not happen. Find time, especially if children have questions, to talk about feelings and concerns. This can help everyone feel less alone.
Strive for balance: It is very easy to get caught up and overwhelmed in the negative. Try to remind yourself of things that are positive and comforting that have also happened. While something like a mass shooting often eclipses the positive, there are things out there that have a powerful positive impact. Kids also need to know that there is good in the world and they can be a part of it.
Turn it off and take a break: Keeping informed is important, however, inundating yourself with media can lead to increased stress. What you see, hear and read is very powerful and can bring up strong feelings. Take some breaks and focus on something you enjoy doing to balance out your exposure to media.
Honor your feelings: Having a wide range of emotions after a traumatic incident is completely normal. Remember that grief is cumulative and can have profound effects on you physically, emotionally and spiritually. Avoid using alcohol or drugs to numb the pain associated with grief as using these substances will only complicate grief reactions.
Seek help: If you find that you or your child is struggling, reach out for help. Find a friend or counselor who can help process feelings evoked by such a tragedy. Know that you call us at the COPE Foundation.