A traumatic event in our community takes our breath away. It sends us into fight, flight, or freeze. Our
minds spin trying to make sense of it all. We look for answers and reasons and don’t always get them.
We make calls and send texts and hit “refresh” on news apps, trying to gather information and
reassurance. We are devasted and gasping. We picture ourselves in the shoes of those whose lives have
been changed forever. We imagine how moments, seconds even, might have changed an outcome. We
vacillate between anger, fear, grief, denial, overwhelm, and a myriad of other emotions. We notice we
are nauseous; our shoulders and back are tight and it might feel hard to breathe. We look for signs of
hope. We turn to music, books, blogs, sermons, and anything that can help us name our pain and remind
us we are not alone.
When we are faced with sudden, life-altering, and devastating loss what we need most are the basics.
Here are a few practical suggestions for navigating the traumatic grief that our community is facing
Go on a walk. Trauma energy gets lodged in our bodies. We need to move and breathe. Waking
is a form of bilateral stimulation and that can be a healing part of our processing. It gives our
bodies a sense of agency, rather than a sense of helplessness.
Talk with someone. Call a family member, a friend, a pastor, a counselor, or a coach. Tell them
how this experience has felt to you. What it reminds you of. The fear it brings up. The questions
you have. Everything you are experiencing is important and valid and deserves to be witnessed
Attend a vigil. “The deepest healing happens in collective spaces.” (Deran Young) Grieve with
others. You are not alone. The stress hormone (cortisol) is extracted from our bodies when we
can cry and grieve in the loving presence of others.
Write. Light a candle and set aside some time to write tonight. It may be a journal entry about
what has happened and how you are feeling. It may be a letter to those who are suffering
alongside you tonight. It might be questions for God. Seeing our thoughts and feelings on
paper, in our own handwriting, has a special healing quality.
Draw. You may not be able to access words yet. That is okay. Get some crayons or colored
pencils. Draw an outline of your body on the paper. Draw where you feel your grief or your anger.
What color is it? How much space does it take up in your body? How heavy is it? If it had a
sound, what sound would it make? Draw all these things. Sometimes images allow us to process
things in ways that words cannot.
Ground yourself. Check-in with your five senses. Come back to this exact moment and notice
what you feel, taste, smell, hear, and see. Drink a large glass of cold water. Make a pot of hot
tea. Walk up and down your sidewalk with bare feet. Slowly. Mindfully. Keep breathing.
Listen to guided imagery. Here is one that could be particularly useful in the coming weeks, as
you discern where, when, how, and with whom to process your grief. Having a “container” for all
of this can be very helpful.
By Amy Alexander, CEO/Therapist, The Refuge Center for Counseling