October 15, 2017
As the Route 91 Harvest Festival was in full swing October 1st, I was on a runway at LAX heading for JFK. I was looking at Facebook just before the flight attendant announced it was time for take-off and time to shut down our devices. As I was turning off my phone, I quickly saw a friend post that he was “safe” and wanted everyone to know before the news hit about the shootings in Vegas. In my mind, I thought one or two shots possibly were fired on The Strip.
Less than 6 hours later, I landed after a red-eye flight in New York and turned on my phone as we were taxiing to the gate and saw 59 people had died and hundreds of others injured. I was horrified and heartbroken to hear of the absolute massacre. I also experienced a heartfelt peace due to the acts of heroism by so many. My almost 15 years of work with US Veterans immediately made me aware of what the aftermath would be emotionally as others were focusing on the physical wounds. I know as an EMDR trained therapist that the trauma would be large. Everyday Americans had been trapped in an unthinkable situation. People like you and me suffering and helping one another survive was a beautiful thing, but it also was so horrifying. And now I know that hundreds and hundreds of individuals’ and families’ lives will forever be changed.
As a therapist who has been in practice almost 20 years, I have the pleasure of having a network of colleagues that I can consult with, lean on, and in turn, they can lean on me in times of need. I immediately started to notice the exchange of information via email of who needed help and where the help was needed. As you can imagine, friends who attended the festival reached out to me via email and social media. Some even called.
There is a very strong need for people to process their trauma and grief. It is important to know that everyone who is experiencing trauma is having a normal response to an abnormal event. Some have been more psychologically hurt than others. Some will scream and be angry, some will cry and may feel helpless. Again this is all normal. It’s not a sign of strength or weakness, it is a matter of how our bodies, minds, and hearts process the trauma. We are powerless as to how and when it affects us, but we can respond and have control over how we reprocess the trauma. And we can control how we help those who are suffering from the trauma. We can help by listening and not judging others responses to trauma.
People express trauma differently. People heal differently. If one does not get better, there are many options for help if you or someone you know is suffering from the massacre in Las Vegas last weekend. In southern California, you can dial 211 and receive for free referrals. You can also contact the California Victims of Crime Board, also known sometimes as “Victims of Crime” for assistance if you do not have insurance and can not pay out of pocket for therapy. You can also find an EMDR therapist like myself through either your insurance company or searching the internet. There are different types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral or EMDR, and many different types of therapists and clinical settings. If someone you know is struggling with what once was simple tasks like getting dressed and going out, there are intensive outpatient programs available that offer individual and groups.
Whatever you do, do not pretend it did not happen and push it all to the back of your brain. Your brain wants to heal.
Jill Boultinghouse, LMFT
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