Just a week removed from the devastating Covenant shooting, many are still struggling and encountering unfamiliar emotions. We are collectively left with more questions than answers and those closest to us may still be experiencing grief. This post is designed to act as a resource in helping you and those closest to you navigate and process the Covenant shooting.
How do parents explain this to children?
We encourage parents to start the conversation by asking the child what they have heard. Clarify any misinformation with facts and provide the child with age-appropriate information about the event. Highlight the helpers who were at the school providing support during and after the event. Give your child space to ask questions, and know that it is okay not to have all the answers. Ask your child how they are feeling and try to normalize their feelings.
Remind your child that this can be an ongoing conversation and that you are there for them if they have more questions or feelings they want to talk about. Additionally, help your child to identify other adults in their life who are available to talk when they feel emotional outside of the home.
How do to help those that are personally affected, friends and neighbors?
The most important thing a person can do for those who are personally affected by the school shooting is to listen and be aware.
- Allow the person(s) to experience their feelings which may include fear, sadness, anger, anxiety etc.
- Allow the person(s) to talk about how they are feeling. Don’t debate or discredit their feelings
- Encourage those affected to take care of themselves in healthy, supported ways.
- Realize that everyone experiences trauma differently and be empathetic to each person’s feelings, thoughts and needs.
- Provide practical needs ie. meals, a listening ear, a walk with hurting people, or brief care for their children so that adults can have some adult processing time.
- Remember that you have been affected by the trauma too. Be kind to others but be kind to yourself as well.
How do we take care of ourselves when we feel helpless?
The feeling of helplessness is awful, and it is so normal in the face of an unexpected tragedy. When we notice ourselves in a moment of feeling helpless, questions we can ask are, “What would make me feel a tiny bit better right now? What would be a kind thing to do for me at this moment? Is there something that could make this feeling of helplessness a bit more bearable?” Instead of focusing on finding a solution, answer, or action step to “fix the problem,” we can turn toward ourselves with tenderness. Small things like a hug, a cup of tea, a walk, naming feelings, talking to someone, or deep breaths may be the tender kindnesses that ease our sense of helplessness a bit and/or make the moment of helplessness more bearable. The truth is, we can usually find ways to take care of ourselves, even if simple and small, and that action step is the opposite of helpless. Also, when we take care of ourselves with kindness, we step into a calmer state in which problem-solving and taking action are easier and more productive.
How can we help others who we see struggling with mental health?
Our body, mind, and spirit respond to life circumstances all the time and our emotions, like
intrusive, unwelcome red lights on the dashboard of our cars, are the early warning system to
direct us to self-care or toward others who can help. When tragedy occurs people experience a
the flood of their emotions which can feel overwhelming at times. They need time, a safe place, and the presence of one or more emotionally safe people who can listen with empathy and who do not offer solutions or quick fixes. It is very important not to interpret emotional expression as a problem that the hurting person doesn’t know how to solve. They will know what they need to do, but they need time to process their emotions first. Helping others with their mental health in times like this is as simple as acknowledging the emotion(s) that the other is feeling, and then respectfully reflecting that awareness. Words like, “of course you would feel that way“, and “what hurts the most right now?”, for example, or just saying, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m just glad you told me so I can be here with you.” is all that is needed. Then, when it feels appropriate, simply ask, “what do you think you need right now?” and offer
to help with their request if you can. Listening and reflecting on emotions is exactly what helps people move through their emotions. And afterward, they will have a very good idea of exactly what they need to do and where they need help and they will especially appreciate your presence and allowing them to lead their healing process.
Where can we find mental health resources? (Find Hope Franklin)
Help is everywhere around us. We can start by inviting our children and teens to reach out to a trusted adult with whom they can share more about their stories and struggles. Our responsibility as adults is to attune to the needs of children and teens in our care, or other adults we know, support them mindfully, and encourage them to seek the help they need and deserve as soon as possible. If you or someone you know are struggling with mental health concerns, please know that you can find a listening ear and mindful heart at a counseling center near you.
Some local resources include www.findhopefranklin.com and www.therefugecenter.org
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please dial 988 or text 741-741 for immediate support. There is hope for a better tomorrow and it starts today.