How To Handle Grief In The Aftermath Of A Tragedy, According To Experts
Despite our efforts and hope for universal peace, the world we live in today is still so imperfect and, unfortunately, we are not unfamiliar with natural and senseless disaster. Hardships happen in life, and though the aftermath is certainly a period of immense hurt and mourning, learning how to handle grief after a tragedy is absolutely crucial. Whether you're a victim, a loved one of a victim, or a bystander of these types of emotionally exhausting events, you deserve the proper amount of time and space to heal in a way that caters to your individual needs.
During the Route 91 Harvest Festival at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on Oct. 1, a shooter opened fire from his hotel room, killing at least 59 innocent people and injuring over 500 more. In the wake of this tragedy, which came on the heels of Hurricane Maria's devastation in Puerto Rico, victims and witnesses to these events are left mourning and grieving. In a perfect world, there would be one answer, one solution to put an end to it all. But tragedy affects everyone differently, which means, of course, that there's a variety of ways to nurse the sting. While some people prefer to process times of hardship internally, others jump into creative projects to let out steam. Others choose to process their grief by supporting victims through monetary donations, or seeking reassurance from qualified professionals.
According to the experts, there really is no right or wrong way to grieve. But if you need a bit of guidance on finding a way that feels right for you, here are five ways to cope with grief in the aftermath of a tragedy.
1. Lend A Helping Hand
As unfortunate as tragedy is, there's beauty in the breaking. I believe compassion is embedded in our DNA, so when acts of senseless violence devastate hundreds, or Mother Nature takes its toll on the world, it's really inspiring to see how we come to support one another.
Harness your grief to do good for others: Volunteer at a shelter or hospital; donate money to supporting charities; maybe even try something more creative, like planting a tree or writing a poem -- anything positive to uplift the situation can act as a coping mechanism.
We're all in this together, right?
2. Try To Make Your Days As Structured As Possible
When tragedy strikes, it's normal to feel like you'd rather curl up into a fetal position and use a blanket to shield you from the outside world. But the hard truth is that the world continues to turn regardless of how you feel. While it's perfectly acceptable to feel your feelings for what they are in the wake of tragedy or trauma, at some point, we all must move forward for the sake of our mental health.
Doctor of Psychology and licensed clinical social worker Danielle Forshee tells Elite Daily,
For all individuals, despite any previous psychiatric history, it is important to maintain as much structure and predictability to your daily routines and schedules as possible.
During times of tragedy and emotional distress, it is imperative to surround yourself with a positive and strong support network. If you are inclined to be alone for extended periods of time, you are placing yourself at risk for negative thinking, rendering you vulnerable to a longer or more intense period of experiencing emotional distress.
3. Talk To A Professional
I remember feeling so completely terrified walking into my first therapy session. I couldn't find a comfortable way to sit, my thoughts translated into rambling, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I was concerned about what other people might think if they found out I needed to speak with a psychiatrist.
Allow me to say that if your grief requires professional help, there is absolutely no shame in this process. If you or a loved one are directly exposed to tragedy, Forshee says it's imperative that you seek professional crisis counseling, because whether you were a victim of a tragic event, a loved one of a victim, or even if you were just a witness, psychological reactions can be severe, and you deserve to be supported and guided through your feelings.
4. Know Your Limits When It Comes To Watching The News
For some people, constantly tuning into news coverage of tragic events doesn't really help the grieving process.
Technology is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to these types of events. While it offers outlets for family members to contact loved ones, and it makes it a lot easier to retrieve fast facts, it's also a stream of negativity and sadness, and with social media having the presence that it does in our society, it can be hard to remove yourself from the cycle.
These images and by-the-minute updates can be as toxic as they are informative, so while it's necessary that we all educate ourselves with current events, it's also important to be fully aware of when it's time to unplug.
Scott Dehorty, LCSW-C, executive director at Maryland House Detox, Delphi Behavioral Health, tells Elite Daily,
Grieving and sensationalism are two different things. The 24-hour access to news and information has given rise to an inundation of information regarding these tragedies.
This information turns into speculation, agendas, arguments, and compassion fatigue. It is important to monitor the intake of this information.
5. Take The Time To Actually Grieve
Some people wear their heart on their sleeve, and it's almost impossible not to know exactly how they're feeling at any given time. But some people feel that emotions are meant to be compartmentalized -- that there's a very specific time and place to feel things.
The worst thing you can do when mourning after having experienced a traumatic event is to set aside all emotion to deal with it at a later time. Dr. Dehorty tells Elite Daily that these events cause callousness, and events like mass shootings or nature-born hurricanes "are abnormal and deserve proper grieving."
One of the best ways I know how to hone in on my emotions and recognize what it is I'm really harboring inside, is to meditate and practice yoga. Meditation and yoga are meant to calm the body, quiet the mind, and encourage you to better understand what you're feeling physically and mentally.
When all you can do is take a deep breath, roll out a mat and give this sequence from Yoga With Adriene a try.