The recent mass shooting incidents in Gilroy, CA, El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH these last two weeks have continued to point to a complicated and serious societal problem on so many different levels. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the families and these communities that have lost loved ones, a sense of security, and well-being. What these deadly mass shooting incidents create is an overwhelming sense of emotional distress and trauma. Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless and vulnerable. This is why as marriage and family therapists we need to support those who are affected by these events.
These are some ways that mass shootings can affect us and our children:
- Feeling a sense of powerlessness to prevent these mass shootings
- Shock, denial, or disbelief
- Anger, irritability, mood swings
- Guilt, shame, self-blame
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Confusion, difficulty concentrating
- Anxiety and fear
- Withdrawing from others
- Feeling disconnected or numb
If you are feelings some of these emotional and physical symptoms, it is important to do the following:
- Don’t isolate.
- Ask for support.
- Participate in social activities.
- Join a support group for trauma survivors.
- Stick to a daily routine.
- Break large jobs/responsibilities into smaller, manageable tasks.
- Take care of your health.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
What can parents do for their children?
- Reassure children that they are safe and that trustworthy people are in control.
- Your reactions and responses to traumatic events will affect how your children deal with those same events.
- It is okay to let children know that you are sad or hurt by an event, but, it is important that they see you in control and feel your sense of security and resolve to protect them.
- Spend extra time with the children and help them return to their normal routines as quickly as possible.
- To help increase a sense of security, try to maintain family schedules for daily activities such as eating, playing, and sleeping.
- Talk to the children, answer their questions. Give children the amount of information that you believe they can understand.
- Monitor media images, monitor your conversations about traumatic event, as conversations, too, may be troubling for your children.
What can parents do for themselves?
- Allow yourself time to heal.
- Parents are often so focused on taking care of their families, that they do not take the time to take care of themselves.
- Allow yourself time and space to express your feelings about what happened.
- Be patient with your emotional state, as it is normal after a trauma to experience mood fluctuations.
If you have any further questions or are in need of support during these difficult times, find a marriage and family therapist near you.
Hoping for a safer and healthier society,
Noel Casiano, PsyD, LMFT