Every morning, I crawl out of bed, immediately switch on the TV, and then scramble to get ready for work. I listen to the news anchors as I get dressed in the other room and watch them out of the corner of my eye as I make breakfast in the kitchen—waiting for a weather forecast and loosely listening to latest updates on the political front. But yesterday was an unfortunate exception to this routine.
Yesterday, I crawled out of bed, immediately switched on the TV, and then I froze—eyes wide, mouth gaping, hands tightly clutching my remote. BREAKING NEWS: AT LEAST 50 DEAD AND 200+ INJURED IN LAS VEGAS SHOOTING, read the banner streaming across my screen. I looked around, as if expecting someone to show up and offer an explanation or an answer: an answer to an unasked, even unknown, yet surely painful question. But I quickly realized there was no someone and there was no answer. I then thought ‘I must be dreaming’ or having a nightmare, rather. It couldn’t be real: another mass shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in modern-day U.S. history. But it was—it was a painful reality, but it was reality nonetheless. And with that realization I slowly shrunk into the safety of my couch cushion—eyes wet, mouth quivering, hands struggling to hold on to that remote.
It’s been a little over 24 hours since I first saw this unbelievably heartbreaking news. In that time, the death toll has risen to 59, the number of injured individuals to 500+, and those of us struggling to process another mass shooting: an innumerable amount. What now? We’re all looking around, waiting, wishing, hoping for foolproof instructions to fall into our laps—but they just don’t exist. Like everything else in life, we must simply do our best in dealing with and processing this tragedy. Thankfully, however, there are a few guidelines that will help us get started:
We don’t ignore what happened, we confront it.
I wanted to believe that this was all just a bad dream, but I couldn’t because it wasn’t. As much as we hope to wake up to good news every morning, it’s just not realistic—bad things happen and we need to acknowledge that. But the truth is we’re hesitant to do so, as explained by what neuroscientists call the “good news/bad news effect”, whereas we focus on the good news over the bad. We’re drawn to an optimistic view of life and we often dismiss the negatives. But horrific events like this shooting in Las Vegas can’t be dismissed or ignored—they need to be confronted. The sooner we can accept that this happened, the sooner we can heal and learn from the unfortunate event.
We face our feelings—no matter how painful.
I’ve been in a constant state of shock, sadness, and anger since yesterday morning…and that’s okay. It’s normal to develop traumatic stress from such harrowing tragedies, even for those who didn’t witness the experience first-hand. You can still develop a broad range of difficult emotions, including fear, helplessness, and guilt, in addition to my feelings of shock, sadness, and anger. The key is to simply accept these emotions, rather than avoid them; to give in to your feelings and allow yourself to heal at whatever rate necessary.
We do what’s best for our emotional health.
I spent a majority of yesterday flipping through newscasts, sorting through emerging details, and reading up on the latest reports of what happened in Las Vegas. My mind was becoming overwhelmed with photos of victims, the sounds of gunfire, and new facts on the case. I finally said to myself, ‘You’ve got to step away’. While I wanted to stay updated on what was unfolding, there came a point where it just wasn’t doing me any good; I needed to take a step back from all of the media exposure. So, I turned off the TV, closed my laptop, set down my phone, and picked up a book—a temporary escape. This wasn’t me ignoring what was going on, but acknowledging that I wasn’t okay and following the continuous news coverage was making it worse. We all need to stay aware of our emotional health and let that guide us in dealing with tragedies such as this mass shooting.
We acknowledge what truly matters.
Today I’m not worried about how much money I have in my bank account. I’m not annoyed that my closet door is ridiculously hard to open. I don’t care that I forgot my lunch at home or that my dad forgot to call me earlier. Instead, I’m happy that I have a job, a home, loved ones. I’m grateful that I even have the opportunity to worry, to be annoyed, to care. I’m grateful for all of my fortunes, starting with my very life, and you should be too. Count your blessings and realize what’s really important—in honor of the victims and their families.
We take positive action.
Grieving over this traumatic event can only go so far. It may illustrate our empathy, but it doesn’t alone evoke change. So when we’re ready, we should channel our thoughts and our feelings into positive action. This could mean donating to the families of the victims; offering support to the survivors; rallying behind a cause near and dear to your heart; volunteering for a charity that hits home; or simply being kind and helpful to those around you. Remember—we’re all in this together.