Helpful tips for Grief after shootings

Recent Texas School Shooting Tragedy

As a survivor of a mass shooting myself and having worked with those from many of the current shootings, I wanted to offer tips to help deal with these tragedies such as the Texas School Shooting. With public and mass shootings, we are dealing with more and more grief. The loss is personal and public. I hope some of these tips will help deal with the tragic aftermath.
  • Do not try to keep what is going on from your kids. These videos are on Snapchat and other social media channels. Even elementary school kids talk about the news. Focus on how people came together and helped out to keep people safe and if the bad people have been arrested. Your family style may be to protect the kids from this reality, but many other families are telling their kids and then the children talk to each other in school.

 

  • For those in the involved community, safety is first. Then a connection to family and friends. It’s important to get information and refer people to counseling services and bereavement resources. Information is usually provided right after a tragedy and again as time goes on. Many find it hard to think about resources during the initial shock of mass violence.

 

  • Shootings are traumatic grief. Often death is seen as a natural event, and there is time to anticipate the loss and say goodbye. Sudden violent death is very different. The level of shock and disbelief is extremely heightened. It also involves public grief and multiple losses. When a loved one dies the community is stable and helps. However, in these tragic events, the whole community is often rocked.

 

  • Mass shootings also cause a personal and public loss of safety. For example, going to the store, movies, or a house of worship can feel extremely risky.

 

  • Understand for family members, the death unfolds much slower. There is the police securing the space. Then the coroner identifying the body. Then the autopsy and then the body finally gets released to the family. Families will need lots of extra support during these painful limbo periods.

 

  • Private grief and public knowledge become blurred. Coworkers and strangers may come up and comment about the latest news item.

 

  • Loved ones are left with horrific details instead of comforting memories. It will take longer for them to process the event. Support and patience are important.

 

  • Don’t expect people to seek grief support right away. Counseling usually comes later. Families are in shock and want to nest and connect. In a couple of months, individuals begin to feel ready to get help.

 

  • Those involved in these tragedies sometimes seem to have abnormal reactions to normal events. Perhaps they don’t want to go out in public or see a movie. These are very normal reactions to horrific events.

 

  • Keep as many normal routines going as possible; but, allow a little more time knowing that grief is exhausting for you and your children. Routines are very important because doing normal things at abnormal times helps us to feel normal again.

 

  • There is no timeline in grief. People in shootings don’t get over it, they learn to live with it.

 

  • People may catastrophize – that’s when we imagine the worst possible outcome of an action or event. If someone is late, you may assume the worst. Be reassuring to loved ones after a tragedy.

 

  • Triggers are everywhere. A car backfires, there’s another shooting, or you’re in a crowded place.

 

  • Remember for your kids and for yourself, the concept of possible vs. probable. Shootings are possible anywhere, anytime, but they are not probable in our lives today. But our children should know what to do. While events may be tragic, try to put losses in perspective – that many things we do in life are risky, but we do them because fear does not stop death. Fear stops life. Most of us can go to the movies and be safe.

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