Emotional Toll of Coping with Mass Shootings

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IOWA  —  After the recent series of mass violence, Americans are grieving and worried about their well-being, even if they were not directly impacted.

Psychologists believe it is normal to grieve and feel wary even though you might not be personally affected. They said it feels personal because their lives remind us of ours. Normal people, doing normal things like going to the store, movie theater, concerts, school.

It brings out our own fears of: could we be next? How safe is this world?

Anything is possible, but one psychologist said these fears don’t keep us from dying, they prevent us from living.

“If you hold on to that fear, it`s going to make it hard to leave your house, it`s going to make it hard to go around and live your life and go about your typical activities. I think the way you fight that fear is by living your life,” Dr. Laura Saunders said.

These recent events may remind some people of school shootings such as Noblesville and Sandy Hook. Dr. Saunders understands how some parents would want to shield their children from hearing about these events, but she said the more they are informed, the safer they will be.

“You can`t promise that nothing bad is going to happen to them, but you can assure them that in the same way we do fire drills in schools, and they do safety drills in schools that we have things in place  to deal with problems that come up but we are going to be hopeful that each day is going to be okay,” Dr. Saunders said.

When it comes to talking to your kids about mass shootings, there are websites such as psychologytoday.com and focusonthefamily.com. They have tips and personal experiences of starting helpful conversations about mass violence with kids of all ages.

Another psychologist who spoke with the Today show said attending memorials, vigils, or rallies can also help quell those fears. Not only does it help you come to terms with loss, but your presence can also do the same for someone else.

The American Psychological Association shares a few tips to coping with a mass shooting:

  • Talk with someone about it.
  • Strive for a balanced viewpoint so you are not overwhelmingly negative about the world.
  • Turn off social media and take a break from it.
  • Honor your feelings.
  • Take some time for self-care.
  • Try and turn these negative feelings into something positive for you or for someone else.


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