By Chuck Wright, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Traumatic Stress Specialist.
The traumatic shooting incident at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School has saddened, shocked, and made some fearful; but it also not only brought the Marysville community together, it galvanized the global community to support those directly affected by this tragedy.
These questions are often asked by those affected by tragedy:
- What can I do to help my children?
- What can I do to help my loved ones?
- What can I do to help myself?
To help answer these questions we might turn to what others who have been through harrowing events tell us about what they did to help them address their grief.
Collectively these individuals tell us the key to assisting others in a crisis is to work within each individual’s own value system. It makes sense that each of us will turn to different answers on how to stabilize ourselves.
To support others it is important to keep in mind that our goal is to assist a person in identifying his or her personal internal and external resources, which may lead to a reduction of stress in the person's life.
What are external resources? External resources are those motivators, which exist outside of us and are attributed to others or one's environment. It can be said these resources greatly add to one's resilience and desire to regenerate one’s energy.
Some general external resources include: loving relationships, daily exercising, physical and mental fitness, martial arts, altruism, mentors, role models, facing our fears, supportive social and work networking systems, use of our sense of humor, movies, hobbies, music, art, dancing, animals, sunshine, gardening, sports, skiing, fishing, ice skating, roller skating, reading, journaling, talk therapy, vacations, our sexuality, board or computer games, being around water, sitting around campfires, and being in other peaceful settings.
What are internal resources? Internal resources are those motivators, which are located in one's mind.
Examples of internal resources are: spirituality, meditation (prayers- yoga), deep breathing techniques, control of dehumanizing words, self- talk, change of one’s perception about a situation, optimism, cognitive flexibility, a solid moral compass, visualization, facing our fears, giving our word is our bond, prayer, a desire to change, ability to have insight, and a desire to focus and reach one's goals.
Other ideas to help ourselves and those around us is to think about using some of these approaches:
- Try and keep a normal schedule of events that you do day to day.
- Talk. Talk. Talk. And then Talk some more.
- Bring out the comforting blankies, teddy bears, lambs, etc..
- Leave a night light on in or around a bedroom.
- Be available when your loved ones come into your bedroom and ask, “Mom, dad are you awake?”
- Reduce your reading or watching the news about the incident. We can only take in only so many horrific stories.
- Individual or group hugs are often very effective.
- Let the tears of sorrow or tears for the loss of feeling safe flow. No one has died from crying.
- When asked, “How are you doing?” you can note, “It sucks! But I am getting better.”
- Be aware that the silence of “nightness” can affect your thoughts so be prepared to journal or reach out to another person when it gets dark outside.
- Use your pets as one of your major external resources!
- Spend more time looking up rather down at your phones, I-pads etc. Make eye contact with another person. A smile or a caring look can do wonders.
- Stop listening to sad Country Western music for a while. We are sad enough and we do not need more sadness from music.
- Read or listen to inspirational material.
- Use your school, spiritual, community, and private resources when you feel you need them.
Remember you cannot only help yourself; you can help others by encouraging them to do what they have done in the past to help them through a crisis.