A few days ago, there was a shooting in my neighborhood. An unmedicated bipolar guy shot up a cool hipster cafe (Cafe Racer), a woman in another part of town and himself, leaving six people dead, and the extended community around the cafe in shock and grief.
I was asked to present a bit about trauma and grief and to find therapist to volunteer their services for survivors. Here's a handout I made, based on handouts I'd made for clients:
Reactions to Trauma
- Anxiety/Fear 2.Anger 3.Weepiness 4.Self-Blame or Shame 4.Numbness/Shutting Down 5.Feeling out of control 6.Startle Response 7.Nightmares 8.Flashbacks 9.Depression 10. Avoidance of thinking about what happened by Not talking about it/Substance Use/Getting “busy”/Isolating
Stages of Grief (May occur in succession or over and over.)
- Shock and Disbelief
- Anger and Blaming: Self, the one who is gone, doctors, fate, God, et.al.
- Sadness, Depression, Hopelessness, Yearning
- Integration, alternating with all of the above.
- Over the acute grief and still missing your person.
Rules of Grief
- It always hurts more than you think it should.
- It always last longer than you (and others) think it ought.
- It makes you tired, cranky, stupid or feeling hopeless.
- Avoid it and it stays terrible, creates depression and/or useless busyness.
- Feel it all and it gets better.
What can I do on my own?
- Exercise, especially aerobically: walk, run, dance, ride a stationary or outside bike, do the elliptical machine at the gym.
- Take fish oil at least 3 grams a day. 3 big capsules. Carlsons is a good brand.
- Eat well, but not too much. Some people starve themselves to not feel, some soothe with too much food. Both ways bring up the endogenous opiodes (our very own biological heroin) and keep you from working through the trauma.
- Give your body more time to sleep.
- Talk about it. It helps.
- Alcohol and pot slow down the healing. Trauma and grief may push you to do more, but it doesn’t work in the long run.
- Remember that the trauma response is a normal reflex, not a sign of being crazy.
- Hang out with people who like you. Humans’ emotions are regulated by being around other people. Don’t isolate, especially if you feel horrible.
If people need more help, Seattle trauma therapists are volunteering their services. I'll post the list tomorrow.