When Tragedy Happens… Again: How to Fight Helplessness
This past weekend, another murderous shooting occurred in Los Angeles. At the time of this writing, the murderer had been found, having died by suicide. I wanted to post these thoughts again, as one more community tries to come together to heal.
In December of 2019, a horrible tragedy occurred in my hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas; a fatal shooting occurred not two blocks from our cozy little town’s downtown square, where people were with their kids, gazing upward at holiday lights, riding ponies and drinking hot chocolate. The businesses quickly opened their doors and let extremely frightened and panicked people into safety.
The assailant murdered a young police officer, 27-year Stephen Carr, as he was sitting in his patrol car in back of the station, preparing for his late night shift and waiting for his partner. The assailant ran, shooting at other police offers who’d immediately spilled out of the station; and was killed as he bolted toward the square. What we can surmise from the facts we do have is that he was planning a massacre.
It was senseless. Shocking. And we are going through what so many other communities have had to face.
An incredible sense of vulnerability. Fear. Anger.
I’m a psychologist, a therapist. So my message isn’t a political one. My words are for anyone who may be overwhelmed with fear, or a sense of helplessness or hopelessness. I’ve seen several people this week whose sessions have revolved around what happened, and how it’s affecting them. My own eyes have filled with tears more than once, as I read more details about how our community was coming together to mourn and lend support where we can.
But I’ll relay what I’ve learned from so many people who’ve faced senseless crime and abuse in their own lives. You have to allow yourself to feel, connect with the emotions that will be unique to you. Seek help and comfort when you need it. Come together with others who are willing to demonstrate their own feelings and find support and reassurance there. If you’re struggling with nightmares or flashbacks, a deepened depression or heightened anxiety, please seek help. This can happen especially if you have violence in your past. This is called being triggered, and it can happen far more easily than you might think.
The next thing to do is to take power back in areas that are available to you, and look for what actions you can take. Whether that’s an act of kindness or caring, or joining a peaceful group seeking change, or doing something for the people who take incredible risks every day to protect others — then do it. One small kindness may not seem to make a difference. But it does. These small acts can add up to become meaningful change, not only for you, but also for your family, your neighborhood, your community, your city, your country, and perhaps even the world.
If you stay afraid, or if your actions are governed by hatred, nothing will change for the better.
You can hear more about mental health and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!
My new book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression has arrived and you can order here! Its message is specifically for those with a struggle with strong perfectionism which acts to mask underlying emotional pain. But the many self-help techniques described can be used by everyone who chooses to begin to address emotions long hidden away that are clouding and sabotaging your current life.
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Photo by Keenan Constance from Pexels.