I read a piece this morning about how ‘managing long-term metal health effects poses unique challenges in each town touched by tragedy, but experts agree that isolation is a red flag’ (credit to Terry Spencer, Kelli Kennedy and Colleen Slevin of the Associated Press). A mass shooting survivor talks about how she went to talk to therapists at her school after the shooting, but spoke to a different person each time she went (thus rehashing her traumatic experience) and how she was expected to “get better” a year after the experience.
Whenever we endure a traumatic experience, no matter what the circumstances, the details are seared into our psyche. A sound, a sight, a smell can trigger painful memories and we relive the incident all over again. I’ve had family members who have been in horrible car accidents. It doesn’t take much for them to relive the trauma.
When we break a bone, it has to be immobilized. After we experience trauma, we need to be immobilized – to stop and process what happened. When we break a bone, we need to have physical therapy so our muscles don’t atrophy and we can continue the use of the limb. After trauma, we need counseling to help us to continue processing and healing from the experience. When we break a bone, we may need crutches or a cane to help us move forward. After trauma, we need compassion from others to help us move forward.
Many uninjured victims of mass shootings end up later taking their own lives due to the pain they feel from the experience. Those people who have experienced any kind of trauma need: continuity in counseling, compassion in relationships and time to move on and find their new ‘normal’. If we have never experienced trauma, then we have no right to tell those who have experienced trauma to just get over it, or just move on. It’s not that easy.
We must allow trauma victims time to move through their experience. They will never be the same – we cannot expect them to be. I experienced PTSD after my divorce. The counselor I went to allowed me to cry and process what I had experienced. I am so thankful for her compassion. Be kind and allow victims of trauma to take their time to process the incident, even it takes years. Stay tuned . . .