What Happens Next? Understanding Trauma
I am writing this in support of the many families and employers putting the pieces back together after a shooting in a high school.
It has been two weeks since the shooting, and the last child in critical care, passed away last night. Every child passing away, has torn our hearts open with grief. The grief is enormous.
This is a time for tears.
And each time we grieve, we need to again find some way to hold ourselves together when we aren’t sure we can.
Our previous traumas may reopen and we seem to be lost in an old, but familiar place. A place that we thought had passed. It did pass, we did heal, but then we aren’t sure. The grief and sorrow can only be felt. That is all we can do with it. Feel it.
It is like the weather. You can’t go outside and make it stop raining. You can’t ‘control” the grief. You just feel it. It holds on until is ready to let go. You can’t make it pass.
Sometimes people want to make the grief pass quicker or just go away. Getting angry or frustrated at grief doesn’t help. It may make you feel worse. It is ok to just let it be with you. It lifts when it does.
Each person going through this trauma is going to have their own experience with grief. It won’t be the same from person to person.
We all need to be patient with this.
We aren’t sure if we should push someone out of bed, or if we should do homework when we can’t think.
We need to make adjustments for the next few months.
If your concentration is shorter or hard to concentrate at all, that is normal after trauma. Your mind may be unable to focus. Listen to what you need. If your mind needs a break, take them as much as you need. You will heal if you listen.
Do your normal routine when you can. This may not be right away. Everyone needs a very short list of just a few things they can do that are part of their routine. Make a short list. Take breaks from the routine when you can’t do it. It may feel like you are pretending to be normal. That is ok. That is how we get up. We just do what we are able. And when we are not able, do not be afraid.
It may feel like we can’t be or do our “normal” things. Don’t be afraid of that, it doesn’t mean you are broken, it just means that you need more time.
Trauma and grief can have a timelessness. Trauma and grief are not really grounded to the clock.
And yet, for those closest to the shooting, they will find themselves looking at the clock often. Looking for that exact time of day, that particular day of the week. It will be significant for now.
Now is an important time. When we become lost in grief, we will find our way back eventually to “Now”. This will help us with healing.
There are no right ways or wrong ways to cope with this. You have some instincts inside telling you what you need. It may sound different than what you think is ok. But listen to those instincts.
I heard a parent who was in a different school district receive a letter home saying "talk to your child about the shooting". She said, "My child is 5 years old and this doesn't make any sense to me." I told her to listen to her instinct. This is a time when messages from experts or people in a authority are trying to help but they may not really know what is right for you. You do know what is right for you and this is the time to listen to your inner wisdom. Even if you are unsure. Trust that. It is ok to do what is best for you.
Someone else said they need a few days off from work. They are having trouble returning to work at the hospital. Many people are feeling this way. It is hard to return to the place of the trauma. Employers may be able to understand this, reach out to the HR department and have some conversation about this. They may have some support to offer.
For any family member associated with the school, with the surrounding community who interacts with the families, with the hospitals and their staff, with the emergency responders, with the district leaders and tribal leaders and tribe; there is a tremendous amount of healing in front of us.
Our kindness and open heartedness will help those who are suffering the most. We need to keep bringing that and do activities that let our hearts touch each other. This is how we can help right now.
It may be hard to let the joy in. But the kindness has been lifting hearts and we need to let our hearts raise when we can. Some people get angry when their heart begins to raise, but this is the time…to follow your heart. It will lead us through this.