Tips for Dealing with Tragedy

 In General

Tips for Dealing with Tragedy (For Adults)

  • Limit exposure to disturbing media coverage. If you feel agitated, overwhelmed, or shut down it may be a sign that your nervous system has had enough. If you find yourself frozen in front of the TV, it’s probably a sign that you need to turn it off!
  • Take care of your body. Shock often makes us less aware of our basic needs. You still need to nourish your body with food and sleep. If a regular meal seems impossible, try small, nutritious snacks. Stay hydrated. Take frequent breaks and try to get some sleep.
  • Seek safety. Identify the people places, objects and routines that make you feel secure and embrace them. You may find that you need periods of cocooning- wrapping yourself in safety- to cope with what has happened.
  • Breathe deeply. Placing a small pillow on your belly and breathing deeply so that your breath pushes the pillow out is a quick way to teach yourself diaphragmatic breathing.
  • Move your body. When animals experience something frightening or traumatic, they literally shake it off. Setting your body in motion sends it a signal to release tension and allows the experience to move through you. Sustained exercise releases endorphins.
  • Accept and express your feelings whatever they may be- hurt, anger, fear, numbness, compassion. There is no right way to feel when a tragedy occurs. Affirming your authentic experience will allow you to process more naturally. Let the feelings come and go without judgment or clinging. Be aware that a tragic event can stir up earlier losses and traumas that may need tending.
  • Reach out to loved ones, friends, colleagues, etc. Human beings are social animals. We naturally come together to support one and other in times of crisis. Seek out the support available in your community. Find out where support groups and counseling are available.
  • Lean on your faith community and/or spiritual beliefs if you have them. Pray, mediate and/or send healing thoughts to all those affected. Also be aware that it is very common for people to question their beliefs in the face of incomprehensible events.
  • Give yourself permission to keep living. It’s okay to go on enjoying life when there is a tragedy in the community. Don’t feel guilty for laughing or doing the things you love.
  • Notice the good that is all around you. The darkest, most violent, and senseless acts always seem be followed by countless spontaneous expressions of selflessness, courage and compassion- the best we human beings have to offer. Let yourself take in that goodness.

Tips for Dealing with Tragedy (How to Support Children)

  • Don’t repeatedly watch news accounts about the tragedy. Children especially don’t need to see graphic images that will likely continue to play over and over in their heads.
  • Talk about the event as a family and encourage your kids to express their feelings. Don’t assume you know how they feel. They might be afraid or just curious. If they are afraid, ask what they are afraid of. Let them know that you’re going to protect them, they’re safe, Colorado is safe, and this was a rare event. Younger kids, especially, need to be reassured that this isn’t happening to them and won’t happen to them. Parents may feel like they’re lying, since no one can ever be 100% sure of what the future holds, but probability estimates are not something small kids can grasp.
  • Keep up a normal routine in your household – play, do fun things, eat well, and do the best you can to sleep well.
  • Establish a bedtime ritual for kids if you didn’t have one before, such as read a book or say a prayer together. Have kids sleep with a favorite stuffed animal if they desire.
  • Let younger kids be clingy or stay close to you for awhile if they feel like they need to. For children directly affected by a trauma like this, forms of regression, such as nightmares and bed wetting, are normal for a little while.
  • If you hear older kids talking to their friends about the event, join the conversation. For example, tell them that you’re sad or scared and that it’s normal to feel that way.
  • Use it as a teaching moment. Talking about tragic events can lead to discussions about how to help others and gives parents an opportunity to model compassion.
  • Have hope. Look for positive ways to get involved in the community’s healing process.
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