How to Cope with Yet Another Mass Tragedy
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Uvalde, Texas. Buffalo, New York. One million COVID deaths. Two years since George Floyd’s murder. The anguish is overwhelming. How are we supposed to process tragedies over and over again? Claire offers up tangible steps you can take to help you cope with the fear, anger, grief, horror, and anxiety that have yet again entered our hearts and minds.
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Claire Bidwell-Smith 01:21
How do we cope when another tragedy strikes? How do we manage the feelings of horror, anger, grief, anxiety, there have been so many tragedies, and yet each one can feel utterly overwhelming to take in. This is NEW DAY. And I’m Claire Bidwell-Smith. I can recall so many times in my own life when I’ve been going about my day only to get a text or a call or someone grabs my arm. Did you hear what happened? My heart just sinks each time. And I rushed to read the news headlines. And then the nausea sets in, the tears, the rage, the fear, the hopelessness. And there have been so many times when my clients have rushed into my office in the days following a shooting or a tragedy. And I’ve sat with them trying to help them process the exact same things I’m feeling it’s overwhelming for all of us. So how do we do this? How do we cope with yet another tragedy? Here’s what I know. as hopeless as it can feel there are some things we can and must do to take care of ourselves in the midst of these horrific events. The first thing is that we have to acknowledge our feelings. We have to let ourselves feel everything that comes up. We have to grieve. We have to feel the rage. We have to move through the anxiety. It’s important to remember that it’s really normal to feel this stuff. Give yourself permission to feel shock, sorrow, numbness, fear, anger, disillusionment, and grief. These events can truly take a toll on us. You might have trouble sleeping, concentrating, eating going to work. You also may have grief or traumatic events from your past that resurface. So just start there. Give yourself permission to feel it all. And permission to get help if you feel like you need it. That’s normal. That’s why people like me exist. I will say though, that it’s also normal to feel numb sometimes.
Claire Bidwell-Smith 03:24
Becoming desensitized is a coping mechanism. It’s your body’s way of saying it just can’t handle any more tragedy. This may feel weird when everyone around you is grieving. But try not to put pressure on yourself to feel or act one certain way. That said, it’s a good idea to figure out how to handle the onslaught of news and people in your community discussing the event. So take news breaks, and keep that basic self-care. I know it can feel hard to do some of these things in the wake of a tragedy. But remember that it’s not that you don’t care about what happened are that you’re being selfish by focusing on yourself. It’s simply that you’re taking care of yourself so that you can better address what’s going on in the world around you. Take a walk, cook a nourishing meal, read a novel, listen to music, call a friend, take a bath, meditate. Definitely talk to your friends and loved ones if that feels good. I know I have a couple of friends that I always call in times like this, because I know we can cry together, we can comfort each other. We take turns bolstering each other when one of us is feeling hopeless or anxious. It can also help to feel useful, even if there’s nothing you can directly do to help with the tragedy itself. Go and do some good deeds somewhere. volunteer in your community. Go hang out with some elderly people who need company. Check in to see if your local schools need any support. Get involved in a cause.
Claire Bidwell-Smith 04:44
Doing any and all of these things can lift us out of the heavier feelings of depression and hopelessness. Now for those of you with kids, talking with them about what happened can actually help them feel safer, can help them understand what’s happened and it can help them begin to cope. Your silence around the event can actually make them feel more threatened. When you’re talking to preschool kids, get down to your child’s eye level. Speak in a calm voice. Using words your child understands. Explain what happened, and that you’ll keep caring for them. For older children, use gentle words and offer comfort. Encourage them to share any worries, reassure them that they’re safe. You should consider your child’s age when you’re sharing details about the tragedy. Listen to their understanding of the event from misinformation, misconceptions and underlying fears. And remember that it’s okay for them to see you grieve. This is how we role model healthy emotions. But look, I know this is a lot. It’s so much and it just keeps happening. It’s easy to feel hopeless during these times. I feel it too. I have to work really hard on a regular basis, to process all of the stories of grief and loss and tragedy that I hear on a regular basis for my clients. And I know that when I don’t take proper care of myself and when I don’t check in with myself about how much I can handle, I start to fall apart. So above all, remember to be compassionate with yourself. It’s okay to feel sad and stressed and angry. It’s okay to despair and to question life itself. It’s also okay to just get really present and focus on your life. And it’s even okay to have happy moments too. And it’s more than okay to ask for help. I’m Claire Bidwell-Smith and this is NEW DAY.
NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show was produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. New Day is produced in partnership with the well-being trust the Jed foundation and Education Development Center. Thanks for listening.