My heart is breaking following the tragic and senseless act of violence in Las Vegas, and I want to remind you of something;
It’s Okay if you’re hurting too.
Vicarious trauma is a real thing and when you observe a horrific event like this on the news, facebook, newspapers, etc. you may feel an uncontrollable amount of pain and sadness.
This is normal.
As far as I am aware, I don’t know anyone personally who was in Las Vegas when the shooting occurred, and I thank God for that. However, with that said, I have several friends who travel to Vegas multiple times a year and when I heard about this on the news my heart sunk, and I prayed none of them were there.
Here are some of the feelings you may be feeling that are perfectly normal:
1. You may be feeling an intense amount of hate. Hate for the shooter, hate for the government, hate for the gun laws, hate for the simple fact that our world is becomming more and more violent and it appears to be moving backward in history instead of forward. This is okay. Anger is a perfectly reasonable response to this type of event and is truly one of the hardest emotions to control and overcome. Remember though; there is help if this is becoming too difficult to cope with on your own.
2. Survivors Guilt. You may be feeling this type of guilt if you were there and survived. You may also be feeling this if you were supposed to be there, but plans changed. You may also be feeling this if you have attended Las Vegas countless times and this never happened to you. Survivors Guilt is such a complex feeling, and it is usually accompanied with a lot of the “what if’s?”
I don’t know why you weren’t there if you were supposed to be there. I don’t know why you survived if you were there, and others didn’t. I truly can not answer any of these questions for you, but please always remember that this is a common response and if you are struggling to cope with this; there is help.
3. You may be feeling a heavy amount of weight on your heart. You may be so incredibly sad, and you may ask yourself, “why do I feel like this when I wasn’t even there, and I don’t even know anyone who was?” This is vicarious trauma. This is a normal human reaction to seeing and hearing of people who have been through such horror.
This is normal.
I too can’t get the images out of my head. I think about all of the country festivals I have been too and the people that are there. I think about how much fun people have while the artists are on stage and the memories that are made. I think of all those concertgoers singing along to Jason Aldean and thinking about how lucky they are to be at such an amazing event. I think about the first shots fired, and the confusion people must have had.
Fireworks? If it was fireworks, why is there someone lying dead on the ground beside me?
I think about what I would have done?
Confusion. Panic. Chaos. Trauma, death but also;
heroism. Don’t forget about the heroism and the incredible acts of bravery.
If you imagine all of these things too, it’s okay and if you aren’t, and this isn’t affecting you as much;
that is okay too.
Please know that everyone responds differently, and as long as you aren’t having dangerous thoughts and using only maladaptive coping mechanisms (alcohol, drugs, denial, self-harm, self-blame, etc. ), it is okay and a perfectly normal response to this type of event. If however, you are struggling so much that you can’t go on with your day to day tasks, please know there is help.
4. You may be experiencing flashbacks. You may have been diagnosed with PTSD in the past, and this may be a substantial trigger. There may be people reading this right now who have been involved in a traumatic event where they witnessed death, or nearly died themselves. This event may take you back there. If this is causing you so much grief that you are struggling to cope, please know; there is help.
5. For me I struggle with the images of the families finding out their loved ones who were away for a fun trip, are not coming home. I struggle with these images more than anything else. I struggle with the phone calls, the airport reunions, the questions, the why, why, why’s. I struggle with this, and I truly can not imagine.
One would say, “how can you not imagine, you have experienced this.” Although I have experienced sending my fiancé away on a funfilled weekend only to have him returned in a box, I can not imagine losing him to such a senseless act of violence.
I experienced so much anger after Nick’s death, and it was somedays unbearable, but it was the beautiful mountains and the act of mother nature that took him from me. It was something he knew was a possibility going into it, and made a conscious choice to take that risk, because he loved the experience, and the euphoric feeling of being in those mountains.
How do you prepare for what happened in Vegas? I don’t know about you, but I have never said, “you know I am going to this country concert this weekend, and I really should be mindful and vigilant incase there is a mass shooting.
Most days I am vigilant, and I do think worst case scenario, but this is only because of my background. Most people don’t operate this way and shouldn’t have to. It breaks my heart that as a result of all of these mass shootings and other acts of violence; this is going to become a normal part of our thought process.
It is okay to feel sad, angry, guilty, and traumatized. It is okay, because what happened in Vegas, and in Edmonton, Alberta, and the U.K at the Ariana Grande concert and so many others;
is NOT okay, and it leaves us with a sense of vulnerability.
Please remember there is help out there if you need it, and if you don’t know how to access it, there are people like me who would be more than happy to direct you to those services.
Also, please remember that although these lives were taken by another human being, and we naturally want to vilify him; he has family too.
This is such a difficult balance of stating “he is pure evil,” and stating, “what the hell went wrong for this to be his answer?”.
I don’t expect everyone to look at it with the same perspective as I do because of my fascination with the human mind, and trust me; I am so angry and disgusted too. But while we hide behind our keyboards and type our opinions of this human, and the ways we wish he would have been taken out of this world, instead of at his own hand, remember;
he has a family too, who are more than likely in a state of shock and horror just as we are.
I will end this entry by saying this. I went to bed last night feeling so sad. I went to bed feeling helpless because I can’t-do anything to “fix” what so many people have to go through now.
Please remember this, when this event blows over, and it’s no longer in the media; the victims will still need us. When the funerals are over, the last article is written, and the last news broadcast is completed; the victims will still need us.
The amount of PTSD and other mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse just to name a few, that will come out of this, is too unreal even to fathom. They will need us to eliminate the stigma of mental health and the confusion surrounding grief, so we can allow them to feel what they are feeling, and seek help without shame.
What I want to say is this, when the rest of us manage to place it in our subconscious and “go on” with our lives, thousands of victims will still be hurting, they will still be grieving, and they will still NEED us.
If you are struggling to find a way to help my suggestion to you would be to just keep on living as if today is your last day on this earth, while at the same time being mindful of the fact that many in the world are struggling; even if you don’t know their story. It is okay for us to feel empathy and sadness, while at the same time moving forward.
Let’s help change the attitudes towards mental health and grief so that victims in these situations have a chance at a healthy recovery. I will leave you with this.
“Trauma leaves fingerprints on the victim. These don’t fade when the bruises do” – Dr. Ellen Taliaferro- .