By now I am certain we have all heard about the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is said to be the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. It is devastating to watch the news clips, read the stories that make the individuals shot more human and try to piece together what would make sense out of this senseless tragedy. The ripple affect has made each part of the country morn, feel pain, experience trauma, and attempt to regain footing in the healing process. Here is the pacific northwest, as far north as Vancouver WA, we are reeling from tragedy and many come to counseling asking, “What now?” While I don’t have a good answer as to what the next steps should be, and won’t get into the political debate of gun control VS gun rights, or even mental health care, I will say that this tragedy reaches far and wide, and it is time to open a dialogue about what is makes is feel and how to heal from trauma.
This article is a bit different than many we have been reading that range from gun control debates, to mental health care. This article serve to be a platform for community dialogue, that opens the door to perhaps more questions than answers. This serves to allow empowered voices to speak, and hidden voices to come forward. So let’s start by understanding what kind of trauma is typically experienced in these situations? If you are a first responder, a community member of Las Vegas, or a loved on of those involved it is likely that your experienced trauma may be different than others around you. Similarly if you have previously experienced a trauma, gun related or otherwise, it is likely you will feel differently about this. For the rest of the country and world, we experience the vicarious trauma. The trauma that is witnessed by news outlets, told by multiple stories in friend or work groups, and relieved in out psyche. This trauma can be confusing and difficult to explain to ourselves and others. We often feel like we “shouldn’t” feel this strongly, or ask ourselves to try to make sense of it all. Vicarious trauma can put us in a “middle” of the spectrum position, in which we stay quiet, don’t voice our feelings to those around us and live with the constant worry, sadness or agitation it may cause. So what do we do in these horrific events, in which we are inadvertently with disturbing images, stories and trauma? We stand together, hear each others voices and messages, and connect via sadness and pain to comfort ourselves and others.
In light of our understanding of what trauma is, how some experience vicarious trauma, and that there is a spectrum of trauma, and grief, it may be important to note that healing also falls on a similar spectrum. Healing may be quick for some regaining their sense of normalcy, finding joy in everyday activities and walking around with trust again. For others it may be a much longer process, and for some still, it may never “go back to normal” In counseling, healing is classified as a state in which you feel satisfied, happy, fulfilled, joyful about your current mental health state. It often doesn’t look like it did before you began counseling. Similarly, healing from a trauma such as this, often won’t look the same as you did before you began the process. So, take a deep breath, focus on what your desired outcome is, and begin your own individual process of healing from tragedy.