Fourth of July: Triggers

Written by: Kimi Nolte, MPH, MSW, Lead Victim Services Coordinator
On the fourth of July, most people look forward to the BBQs, firework displays and spending time with their loved ones. However, the holidays can be difficult for a number of reasons, especially if you and your family experienced a traumatic loss. Today, we’d like to discuss the Fourth of July and why this holiday can be difficult for those who have survived gun violence.
This post is not meant to quash any Fourth of July celebrations, but to raise awareness that the flashes of light, explosive sounds and smell of powder may trigger unwelcome memories for some.
Things that might help cope with 4th of July festivities:

  • Having advanced knowledge of a firework display
    • Look up local firework and parade events in the area. Preparing for and anticipating loud sounds can make the shock of those sounds easier to cope with.
  • Being able to see the firework show and know they are coming
    • For some people, being able to pinpoint the source of loud sounds and flashes of light is key to reducing anxiety. For those who know this about themselves, make sure that you have a good vantage point for viewing the source of fireworks and other loud sounds, such as band instruments and speakers.
  • Relaxation techniques and coping mechanisms
    • When a person is triggered, coping is not as easy as letting a person know that the sound or flask of light was just a firework. Grounding techniques and coping mechanism are key. If a person has developed coping mechanisms and grounding techniques that work for them, review these and be ready to use them. We encourage all people who’ve experienced a traumatic event to discuss coping techniques with a trained therapist.
  • Headphones with music or a show playing
    • If distancing yourself physically isn’t a possibility, you can distance yourself emotionally and mentally by using a distraction such as music or a favorite television show.
  • Ear plugs
    • Ear plugs are a good idea for everyone to prevent hearing loss. However, they are especially useful for someone who enjoys the display but finds the sounds startling or unsettling.
  • Know that it is okay to distance yourself from triggers
    • Even if you did your best to prepare for the 4th of July, you cannot prepare for everything. Listen to the signals your body is sending you and know that it’s okay to take care of yourself first even if it means excusing yourself from the festivities.

Unfortunately, the very act of preparing means that the victim of a crime is putting emotional and physical work into prepping for an event that should be enjoyable. If you know someone who has been affected by gun violence, please take extra steps to making sure they feel comfortable.