Collective Trauma: Grief after a National Tragedy

In the wake of a tragedy such as the Parkland Shooting, we collectively grieve. Even though we may not have known the victims personally, it’s hard to process such a complex emotion as grief. We have to work through our grief as a society in order to begin the healing process. It can be hard to do this when we, as a society, are divided in our opinions, and it’s sometimes difficult to acknowledge that we are all grieving.

How can we process our grief after a national tragedy and begin to heal?

  • Turn off the flow of information. When something bad happens, we’re flooded with facts and opinions from news sources and social media. The fact is, too much media exposure can be damaging, making us feel depressed and anxious. Social media can make us feel more connected, but it can also isolate us, as we absorb the anger and negativity from those who do not share our points of view. It’s important to take a break from all of this and allow our minds and hearts to rest.
  • Do something. A tragedy like a mass shooting can make us feel helpless, unable to find any way to make things better. However, there are plenty of places where you can find ways to make the world a better place. Find a volunteer opportunity, join with people who are working to change things, get involved in political action or participate in some other meaningful action to help you make sense of what has happened.
  • Find someone safe with whom to share your thoughts and feelings. This can be a friend, a family member or a therapist. You might even find it helpful to journal about your feelings, in order to help you sort them out. There’s also the option of a support group, which may be particularly helpful when so many people are experiencing the same grief.
  • Cultivate gratitude. It’s easy to get bogged down in negativity, but that’s bad for your psyche. By looking for the good in your life, and appreciating your blessings, you help yourself along the path to healing.
  • Look for the good in others: find the helpers. It’s easy to feel like the world is full of evil people, but the truth is, most people are doing their best. Take time to read stories of people who behaved heroically, or who are helping others, and take inspiration from them so that you can see the world in a more positive light, and maybe be a helper yourself.

We can work through trauma together, and begin our journey toward peace as a society. Reach out for help if you need it, and then use your grief to facilitate healing. Work with others, because working together is what helps people heal and create change. By extending kindness and projecting optimism, we can help our communities to heal.

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