Anger or Depression After A Tragedy
We have been witness to mass shootings and natural disasters this year. California has been shaken, burned, and shot. Whether you were present or watched on news feeds, these tragic events can affect our overall well-being in negative ways.
It is normal to feel sad, confused, worried, anger or depression. It’s easy to question how could these events happen. Should you experience continued distress, or are left with unresolved feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, or low mood, help is available. I have treated clients after they have experienced natural disasters such as the California fires and subsequent mudslides, families after gang involved shootings, and those present at the recent Las Vegas shooting. I can tell you first hand that people are able to recover from experiencing traumatic events. If you aren’t able to get back to life, or if negative thoughts or feelings persist, please consider treatment.
Here are some tips to help you manage the experience following a disaster:
Routines and Reflection
It can be helpful to get back into the swing of things. Your work, sleep, and exercise routines can assist you in grounding yourself and feeling normal. Give yourself ample rest and consider limiting or avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and substances. It can be tempting to push all thoughts of the trauma away and “refuse” to think about it. Avoidance and pushing can take a lot of energy to sustain; these thoughts typically catch up with you anyway. Allow yourself to reflect on the situation and acknowledge the events that happened along with the feelings you experienced. It is often helpful to journal, draw, or tell a friend about what occurred. As you reflect, be aware of acknowledging emotional experiences that were felt during the traumatic event, and allow yourself to contrast those feelings to life now. For example, allow yourself to say that you were terrified during the event, but now you are safe at home and the event is over. Allowing yourself to think it through can help process traumatic events and allow you to move on.
If you are feeling anger or depression it can help to speak with a trusted friend or family member. You can tell them what happened and how you felt. If they were present, it can be beneficial to talk and listen. No two perspectives or emotional experiences are the same. Sharing stories, even terrible ones, can help. It can help you understand yourself, and to be understood by someone else. Some people fall into extreme thinking after a disaster and start to think in terms of “always,” or “never,” or start to feel that they have been negatively changed “forever” since the event. As you share, it can be helpful to remember that your trusted friend/family member cared for you before this event occurred and accepts the light and dark parts of you. A terrible event does not reduce how loveable or wonderful you are as a person, it does not make you less than you were before. It is also not uncommon to notice a sense of guilt or blame…recall that you are not accountable for another person’s action, nor are you in control of natural disasters. A disaster is chaotic, unpredictable, and confusing. Allow yourself to consider that you did the best that you could in these disaster circumstances.
While disasters and tragic events are negative events, you can make choices to help yourself and others. When you feel ready, you can consider donating your time, money, or goods to charities and organizations that assist in disaster relief. The Red Cross is a good place to start. You can research your local community for helping organizations, which may be nonprofits, churches, or local businesses. You may be able to help at a shelter, a kitchen, or to rebuild housing. Following a disaster, people can feel alone, isolated, or disconnected. Getting involved can help bring back a sense of connectedness and provide opportunities to be proactive.
About the Author
AnnMarie Nelson, LMFT 97177 offers in-person psychotherapy from her office in beautiful Mission Viejo, California, and web services for those who reside in California. She specializes in treating trauma, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and life transitions such as death and divorce. Her office welcomes your call at 949.445.0510.