A horrible tragedy happened this week in my hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas. Not all of the details are known, especially not the “why.” But a young police officer was murdered while sitting in his patrol car in back of the station, preparing for his late night shift and waiting for his partner.
This happened 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 ran, shooting at other police offers who had immediately spilled out of the station. He was killed as he bolted toward the square. What we can surmise from the facts we do have.. he was planning a massacre.
The police officer, a 27-year old man named Stephen Carr, has been honored this week. Thousands of people lined the streets as the funeral procession slowly proceeded. Or they attended his service at the local university basketball arena. It was senseless. Shocking. And we are going through what so many other communities have had to face.
An incredible sense of vulnerability. And fear. And 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. It’s called being triggered. And it can happen far more easily than you might think.
Then look for what you can do. 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.
If you stay afraid, or if your actions are governed by hatred, nothing will change for the better.
I went to the square yesterday afternoon, and walked around, realizing that the horror of what had happened could’ve been even more devastating. And for so many. Officer Stephen Carr will always remain a hero in this community’s eyes. The shots that killed him, because they provoked such an immediate police response, saved many more lives. I grieve that we cannot thank him for his service.
But we can do that for the many others that serve, as well as those that are fighting in any way to create safety.
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.
And there’s a new way to send me a message! You can record by clicking below and ask your question or make a comment. You’ll have 90 seconds to do so and that time goes quickly. By recording, you’re giving SelfWork (and me) permission to use your voice on the podcast. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!