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  • How to Support Each Other After a Tragedy?

    Hello everybody. This past year, since the Parkland shooting had been an emotionally loaded year for everyone in the community. As we had this time to reflect on what happened and how it affected our community, I am pleased to say that I was amazed by the beauty of the unity, love and connection. As expected, the anticipation before the anniversary date of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas brought a lot of tension. Working extra hours trying to meet the needs of the community put a lot of pressure on the helping professionals of the community, myself included. Having to say no to some people who called last minute was probably one of the hardest things I had to deal with, besides the sadness of the tragedy itself.

    On a positive note, our professional responsibility as therapists in the community is to take care of ourselves in order to make sure that we are able to take care of others. Many times, the past few weeks I found myself sitting wondering if I’m doing enough. The trauma that the community suffered, mainly the people in the 1200 building and around the school has taken a huge toll on people’s mental health. Thankfully, many people reached out for help and went to see a therapist. However, many others turns to dysfunctional and negative coping skills, such as using substances. What I have to say is that being in the park on the day of the anniversary and seeing how the community came together in unity, love, and peace really warmed my heart. I knew at that moment that people are really trying to heal, and support each other in this difficult process.

    Recently, I was interviewed by NPR (found here) about how can people support the community since the shooting. I would like to provide you with a list of tips that could be helpful for yourself or your friend/family/colleague. I decided to include 17 tips in honor of the 17 people who got murdered on February 14th, 2018.

    1. Ask how you could help, instead of assume what other people would like you to do or say
    2. Offer a friend to go something productive together such as exercise, dance, go to a class together, walk, shop, etc.
    3. Identity to yourself a “buddy” that you know you can rely on at your professional/school setting. Offer to be that person for someone else. You can even create a bag of resources for yourself in an easy access location
    4. When you feel overwhelmed, avoid social media and the news, it only makes it worst
    5. Make an effort to push yourself to go out and engage in an activity or with people, even if you don’t feel like it (take your body, your mind will follow)
    6. Find a reason to laugh (stand up comedy, funny movie, hang out with that funny friend)
    7. Engage in expressive arts of any kind (music, painting, singing, dancing, etc)
    8. Use essential oils for grounding. Some good grounding ones are basil and lavender. Make sure it’s a pure product and not diluted by different products. Many companies offer blends such as peace, serenity, calm, etc.
    9. Journal to yourself or to your spiritual idol. Putting thoughts on paper can be cleansing
    10. Engage in religious activities (if you belong to any group)
    11. Engage in meditation, breathing exercise, yoga, reiki, somatic experience. There are many apps to help you such as Pacifica, calm, whatsup, brainwave, etc.
    12. Find some quiet time to breath and reflect on how you’re feeling, and allow yourself to feel in anyway you feel comfortable
    13. Avoid resorting to substances of any kind. Even prescribed medications, when taken for a long time can be damaging
    14. Use the services the community has to offer. Many agencies are trying to help locally. Some of those are Professionals United for Parkland, Bobbi’s Place, Tomorrows Rainbow, Children Services Council, etc.
    15. Advocate for what’s important for you. Join a professionals organization, charity, any non profit that meet your philosophy
    16. Talk about your feelings with someone who you know could help. This could be a good friend or family member. Or even a professional like myself
    17. Ask for help – if you feel down. You’re never alone! 211 is a suicide prevention helpline, and the community is filled with people who want to help. Professionals United for Parkland is happy to help too!
    I hope this post was helpful for you, or you can share it from someone who would. It was written from a perspective of a therapist in the Parkland area, who had been involved in the healing process. Some parts can apply globally to tragedy, and some content is specifically for the local community. There is always HOPE, if you are ready for it. This journey had just begun, and we still have a long way to go but we are in it together, ready to help!