As with everyone I am shocked and sickened by the nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida. My heart goes out to the families, friends and loved ones of those who have died and been injured. The 24-hour news cycle brings the event into our homes and makes it very personal. Updates about the number murdered and injured and the intent of the shooter cause heightened confusion, speculation and anxiety.
As I watch the breaking news I think about the families and I harken back to the death of my son and his cousin in 1983 and how invasive just one reporter was coming into our home, as a friend, interviewing us on tape and then playing it on the radio news cycle for the next few days. As with most bereaved people talking about Scott's death was part of our struggle to make sense of the senseless. Later this news intrusion frankly didn't feel good as we felt our grief had been exploited. Ours was an automobile accident so not as newsworthy as a public shooting. With these pubic shootings there is an insatiable desire for news with every station looking for a new angle. After a few weeks the media will move onto another story leaving the Orlando families with their raw grief and sadness. This will allow Orlando to grieve.
For these families and others directly involved in the carnage it will take months and even years to recover from the trauma. During the recovery years hearing about other murders can trigger setbacks and secondary trauma for those impacted by other shootings such as Columbine and Sandy Hook. Individuals who have suffered any type of loss should be aware that the Orlando shooting could leave them with feelings of depression and hopelessness.
I feel most impacted when the media begins to "put a face to the names" of the murdered and injured. I then personally identify with the bereaved mothers and fathers and find myself at risk for anxiety or depression as I delve into the past. If you have suffered a loss and find yourself feeling overly anxious about the recent shooting please consider some of the strategies that have helped me.
9 Coping Strategies
1. Limit media exposure -- Set a time of day and limit yourself to one hour of media per day. I know several families after 9/11 who stopped taking a newspaper for six months.
2. Do not access the news after 8:00 pm -- Sleep is important and watching traumatic events can be overly stimulating.
3. Read a good book -- I am currently reading The Boys In The Boat, which celebrates the 1936 U.S. men's Olympic eight-oar rowing team.
4. Listen to some uplifting music -- I like the classics.
5. Walk in nature -- I try to walk at least thirty minutes a day.
6. Talk with friends, family or clergy about how the recent events are impacting you.
9. Contact your local hospital or hospice to find other grief support groups.
As we grieve together we gather strength in finding hope after loss. If you have lost hope please lean on ours until you find your own.