Dealing with Traumatic Events by Dr. DebraWith the rest of the nation, I’ve watched the events surrounding the shootings at Virginia Tech with horror and sorrow. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. They have been in my thoughts and prayers all week. I also have sympathy for the friends and fellow students of the victims, the faculty and staff at Virginia Tech, and the Cho family. What a horrible, painful nightmare for everyone to experience. In the space of a few short hours, life changed, and they will never be the same.
Those who watched the tragedy on the news and internet or read about it in the paper or online may also be traumatized, especially if they have experienced trauma in their past. For many, their original trauma may be reactivated, and they are experiencing their symptoms all over again.
As a specialist in counseling trauma victims, I wanted to give a brief list of symptoms and suggestions for healing. My hope is by posting this on the blog, it may help some people identify what they are going through and help them on the road to recovery.
SYMPTOMS FROM EXPERIENCING A TRAUMATIC EVENT
Symptoms tend to fall into four categories--physical, mental, emotional, behavioral.
Some physical symptoms are: changes in sleep patterns or appetite, upset stomach, and headaches.
Some mental symptoms are: lack of concentration or focus, forgetfulness, confusion, and flashbacks.
Some emotional symptoms are: numbness, crying, irritability, feeling vulnerable or unsafe.
Some behavioral symptoms are: angry outbursts, consumption of drugs or alcohol, withdrawal from others.
SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR HEALING FROM TRAUMA
There are many ways to help heal from a traumatic incident. A few suggestions are:
1. Deep breathing/ relaxing visualizations.
2. Share thoughts and feelings with supportive others.
3. Avoid personalizing or taking responsibility for the incident and how others are reacting to the incident. (For example: If I were friendlier to him, maybe he wouldn’t have shot people.)
4. Avoid using drugs or alcohol to cope.
5. Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling, no matter how much you want to avoid your feelings
6. Do cardiovascular exercise.
7. Be kind to yourself.
8. Make sure you get enough rest and eat well.
9. Do the activities you enjoy.
If your symptoms persist for more than another week, I urge you to seek counseling with a therapist who understands trauma.
Anger, hatred, blaming, arguing will only add to the dark horror of the tragedy. What our nation needs now is to focus on love, positive thoughts, words, and deeds, and personal resolutions to be a better person and make the world a better place.
Those bright, talented people who died at Virginia Tech are no longer here to make their positive contribution to the world. But I am. And you are. If we all can learn and grow from this experience and become better people, then those at Virginia Tech will not have died in vain.