When Tragedy Strikes Close to Home

Our instant news culture makes the world feel like a very small place. Incidences of violence from around the country may be shocking and disturbing but all too often lately, the violence has been very close to home. From Marysville to Mukilteo and now in Burlington, tragedy and traumatic loss lie heavy on our hearts. We grieve as individuals and as communities and we try to sort out an incredible array of emotions.
As shock and disbelief start to wear off, community members may struggle with the side effects of what they see and hear in the media, even if they weren’t present at the scene of the violence. Anxieties about our safety and the safety of our loved ones can cause us to curtail our activities and feel hyper vigilant when we do choose to go out. Sleep disruptions, changes in appetite, feeling tense, sad or angry are all, unfortunately, common reactions to overwhelming events. Recognizing that we need to exercise self-care during these events is vital. That may include unplugging from the news or social media, seeking out friends or family to talk to, taking a long walk, getting some exercise, or perhaps engaging in our favorite hobbies.
Additionally, parents may struggle for ways to discuss events with their children. Answering questions honestly without overwhelming them with details can be a good first step. It’s important to understand that kids will process information over time and questions may arise sporadically. Keep your answers age appropriate and assure them that you are there to keep them safe. Also, giving them extra hugs is never a bad idea.
Community members may also struggle with how to help their friends and loved ones who lost someone or witnessed the violence first hand. Understanding that everyone reacts in their own way and no two experiences are the same is one way to support survivors. Also, being present for them and listening when they are ready to talk can be a great comfort. Offering to help with concrete tasks such as running errands for them or picking up groceries is another way to help. Sometimes it can be as simple as sharing an evening binge watching your favorite shows and eating comfort food. Perhaps the biggest thing to remember is that the grief doesn’t go away. It changes over time as we adapt to our new normal. Checking in with our friends and neighbors and asking how they are doing is a conversation that can never be repeated too many times.
For more information or assistance, please contact Victim Support Services on our 24-Hour Hotline 888-288-9221 or at www.victimsupportservices.org.
Written By: Christina Harkness, Snohomish & Island County Advocate