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Making sense of the senseless: Tips for helping process tragic events

Making sense of the senseless: Tips for helping process tragic events
Making sense of the senseless: Tips for helping process tragic events 04:49

BOSTON – When tragic events unfold, it isn't only children who can have a difficult time processing what happened.

When something like the Texas school shooting happens, parents often think first about how to take care of their children's well-being. How are they doing? How can we help them process their feelings and reassure them that they're safe? 

But we can't forget that adults too can be impacted by tragic events that rock our own sense of security and trigger anxiety, despair, and feelings of hopelessness. Just because someone is a parent does not mean they are immune.

So what is the first thing we adults should consider when it comes to making sense of something that is so senseless?

Recognize that you're going to have a range of emotions. Take comfort in the fact that others around you are also having deep emotional responses. You're not alone, and what you're feeling is normal and human.

Pay attention to the people around you, both adults and children. Talk to your friends and family about the events. Don't keep your feelings bottled up - share them with one another. 

Are there any changes in our behavior we should consider?

  • Try to maintain a normal daily routine
  • In times of stress, it's especially important to return to the basics of eating healthy, getting as much sleep as possible, and exercising which can do wonders for your mental health
  • Do something you enjoy. Get outdoors for some fresh air, go for a walk, do some gardening, listen to some relaxing music, do some mindfulness exercises, meditation, or journaling

Should you just stop watching the news?

  • As adults, we can't put blinders on indefinitely because complete avoidance isn't the answer
  • We cannot become numb to mass shootings in this country. If we do, nothing will get done and it will continue to happen again and again and again
  • And for some people, getting more active and more vocal through local efforts and reaching out to legislators, and campaigning for causes can be very therapeutic. 
  • Overexposure to the media is also not helpful. Watching the same video and hearing the same accounts over and over can exacerbate stress and trigger PTSD in some people. So stay informed, but don't watch the same coverage obsessively.

How do you know when you need professional help?

  • If you can't stop thinking about the shootings and or ruminating about tragic events
  • If you can't sleep, can't eat, can't function at work or at home
  • You're experiencing overwhelming fear or anxiety
  • Loved ones tell you they think you need help

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