How do you even begin to discuss hope and healing in the immediate aftermath of an immense tragedy, like the massacre in Las Vegas, which left 59 dead and over 500 injured?
It’s not easy. In fact, I struggled to find a way to start writing this article.
I may be a therapist, but therapists are human too. We hurt, cry, and grieve as much as anyone else. It’s important that I remind you of that. Why?
Because right now, it is crucial that you honor and listen to your own thoughts and feelings as much as any (competent) therapist would.
How does what happened in Las Vegas make you feel?
For most of us in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as for many allies, the Pulse tragedy came painfully rushing back to the forefront of our minds and hearts earlier this week, especially for Pulse survivors and victims’ families.
Many of us may have also been reminded of other times we experienced or witnessed (including via the news) LGBTQ+ targeted violence in all forms, including the vicious use of words, such as hate speech and bullying.
Memories of traumatic childhood experiences may have resurfaced for some of us. Maybe even some we have never told anyone about.
When a new trauma occurs, it tends to bring up old ones. This is completely normal. It is our brain’s way of trying its best to make sense of something that is utterly incomprehensible.
When our capacity to comprehend something so profoundly upsetting is currently overwhelmed, and also when we are reminded of other public and personal painful experiences, we may feel angry, hopeless, devastated, or even numb.
If we get stuck feeling out of sorts when tragedy strikes, what can we do about it?
- First, remember that whatever you are feeling is valid. You have a reason for feeling the way you do. You don’t need advice or opinions on your feelings. You need empathy, so give yourself some.
- Practice non-judgmental awareness of your emotions and thoughts. This is typically referred to as “mindfulness”. Accept that your feelings will change and fluctuate as time passes. Find some comfort in the fact that feelings are not static. Fighting feelings or suppressing them is like trying to tell an ocean wave to stay off the shore.
- Reach out to someone safe and supportive-someone you can really talk to. You may have a friend, partner(s), or family member(s) you can turn to for support. If not, seek support from an LGBTQ+ affirming support group, online forum/community, and/or therapist.
- Limit your exposure to news, and be selective about the media you consume. If it feels too overwhelming, it is okay to take a break. It is emotionally exhausting, and literally impossible, to know all the things that are happening at all times.
- Distract yourself when your mind needs a break. Go outside. Take your dog for a walk. Organize or clean a room. Pet your cat.
- Practice “grounding” techniques when you feel numb/disconnected or emotionally flooded. Focus on your five senses (sight, smell, taste, sound, touch) and engage them to increase your awareness in the present.
- Practice self-care, and remember that self-care is not selfish. Self care includes basic self care: eating when you are hungry, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep.
- Take action to make a positive difference.
When we feel helpless and hopeless, making even one small decision to act allows us to feel like we are moving forward. For whatever issue feels overwhelming to you on a larger scale, identify a way you can make a direct and concrete impact on a smaller scale. Volunteer at an LGBTQ+ center, call or write your Congressperson, donate/participate in a fundraiser, etc.
Most importantly, remember that we are in this together. You are not alone in your pain and suffering, and when we take care of ourselves and one another, we can rediscover hope and begin to heal.
IMPORTANT: The information above does not constitute medical advice, medical recommendations, diagnosis or treatment. Do not rely on the information above in place of seeking professional medical advice. OUTCOAST LLC, Aimee Beardslee, and Rainbow Counseling of Florida, their providers and affiliated entities shall not be responsible or liable for any advice, arranging treatment, diagnosis or any other information obtained by this article. You are encouraged to confer with your doctor regarding the information above.