We continue to be reminded of the unthinkable, sending children to school only to be senselessly killed in their classrooms. It’s a reality that we have become all too familiar with over the years with active shooter drills. The fear of it touching our lives is reinforced by tragedies like the one that took place earlier this summer.
We may try to cope with distressing news of school shootings in different ways. A lot of us find it hard to stop consuming social media about the news. The developments take shape in stages from the location of the shooting, to the number of victims, to accounts from witnesses and family, to information about the shooter, to seeing and hearing about the victims, to politics about how to prevent such violence, to released footage about the tragedy. We can be bombarded with these stories. Some of us might even experience vicarious trauma also known as secondary traumatic stress. This often occurs when people hear traumatic accounts from people who have experienced trauma. But it can also occur in people who consume graphic content about trauma.
It’s normal to want to know, to understand and try to make sense of senseless violence. Some of us avoid the news all together. It’s important to pay attention to how learning about the trauma impacts our world view and our sense of self. It’s possible for our professional identity to be influenced by how we respond psychologically to the trauma. Symptoms include anger, anxiety, fear, hopeless, numbness, difficulty concentrating, intrusive thoughts, fear of something bad happening to loved ones, loss of appetite, isolation, irritability, and more.
Teachers, how are you coping? Has there been additional emotional support at your school? How are you feeling about additional trainings about school safety amidst all of your teaching responsibilities? What is it like to talk to your students about school safety? Active shooter drills? School shootings? Who is supporting you emotionally and professionally to process the trauma within your profession?
Parents how are you talking to your kids about these tragedies? Are you comfortable answering questions and holding space to explore uncomfortable feelings? Are you able to talk to your child about safety without getting into an argument or a dismissal of the importance of these discussions? Are you noticing the changes in your child as they prepare for school? Are you avoiding them and hoping that it’s just a phase and will go away?
It’s a lot for anyone to go through alone. If you don’t have a person who is close to you to talk to and are noticing a shift in your outlook and sense of purpose, it’s a good time to reach out and inquire about therapy. Talk to your therapist or psychologist about differences that you are noticing in yourself or your child. The hallmark of therapy is to be a safe space to process and explore people, thoughts, and feelings that make us feel unsafe.
Lauren Pena MFT, ATR, LMFT # 130687
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