Ministers like Marc who wrote today to say: "I'm thinking about the professors and pastors around the country entering classrooms and churches they once considered perfectly safe. I keep thinking of the low level fear awareness many of us now have. Do you know of any posts that could help people live in the new 'normal'?"
No doubt, like Marc's and mine, your social media feeds are overflowing with outrage and grief people are feeling all over the country that, yet again, another mass violence event has occurred on a school campus.
Together, we lift our thoughts and prayers for the shocked community of Roseburg, OR, Umpqua Community College, and for all the first responders and local ordained and lay ministers who are reaching out in this time of need. Many representatives from various relief organizations are already on the ground and providing emergency care.
But human-caused violence events are long-term emotional, spiritual, and psychological responses. And like Marc says, many of us are reminded again that trauma does not discriminate and gun violence happens in every community.
Schools, local communities, and surrounding houses of worship are changed by violence - even if they have encountered violence before. And, with each new day, more and more evidence shows how every trauma incident is unique and adds complications to past experiences. No matter if you are from a community that experiences ongoing chronic stress or a violent event feels completely unfamiliar – trauma causes lasting impact.
Thankfully, with each new day more and more evidence also shows that care matters.
If you are living far away from Roseburg, OR, today, and you are feeling distraught by these recent events . . . perhaps also recent events in your own community, events in your community that may not be reaching national headlines. You may be wondering what to do to help. Or, like Marc wonders, how to return to work after reminders that yet again this world proves troubled and unsafe.
Here's a few tips from ICTG staff, advisors and volunteers:
– Like Mr. Rogers said, "Look to for helpers." Whether your a child, or a child at heart, looking for the helpers in devastating situations provides a lift and helps us all remember there are pathways to healing all around us.
– Practice calming yourself and breathing. Study after study makes clear, you can't think, work, or be helpful without a sense of calm amid the storm and breathing well. For example, did you know that singing can be a quick way to help yourself – and a whole group – become more calm and breathe better.
– Trauma creates a lot of energy. Maybe you're feeling the common restlessness that trauma invokes. You feel like you just need to do something. Here are several things you can do:
- Go for a run. Really, whether you like exercise or not. If you are not a first responder or someone immediately and directly impacted by the event, but are still feeling very impacted, working some of that energy out will make a huge difference. Whether it's a brisk walk, a run, a swim, martial arts, or yoga – get some exercise today.
- Pray. As faith based people, congregants' prayers make a big difference. Gather people together from your congregation to pray together for Roseburg, the many communities around the country impacted by gun violence, and many other tragedies going on around the country and our world.
- Spend time with people you love. Caring relationships are part of the three keys to healing you can learn more about in the ICTG Resource Guide. Reminding yourselves of how much you love one another, and providing each other safe space to express how you've been impacted will help your body begin important healing processes.
- Express what happened. The effects of traumas can stick with us and often remind us of other traumas we've experienced. If you are having flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or becoming distracted by thinking about what's happened recently or in the past, communicate that with caring trustworthy people.
- Review the safety procedures of your organizations. Here's a helpful resource for thinking through the safety procedures of your own home, places of work, and houses of worship.
- Participate in planning meaningful vigils, prayer services, or worship services among your congregation this weekend.
- Be a caring trustworthy person for the children around you who are concerned or impacted.
- Send some notes of gratitude. Writing helps transfer the chaos of trauma into more manageable experience. Consider sending some notes of appreciation and prayer to community leaders in Roseburg, or to your local first responders and other community leaders.
- Reach out to people in your own community who may be feeling isolated or lonely, and invite them into ways of connecting with your congregation or as a community.
- Contact a professional caregiver, if you are feeling overwhelmed.
- Donate to your preferred disaster relief agency. There are many excellent ones to choose from including the Red Cross, your denomination's disaster agency, and Direct Relief. Donating to ICTG also helps ministers get tools they need for building trauma-informed ministries in the aftermath of trauma.
Some tips on what not to do:
- Do not panic. That does not help you or help others.
- Do not send donations to directly impacted communities. There are millions of people in the United States, let alone the world. Imagine if everyone with a good intention sent something. Yikes! That's called a disaster-within-a-disaster, and it usually only distracts community leaders and faith leaders from doing the jobs they need to focus on most.
- If you really feel that baking cookies, collecting gifts, or other donations are your best way of expressing care, consider using this opportunity to share care with people in your own community in honor of families most impacted in Roseburg.
- Do not remain isolated with your fears, doubts, or concerns. The aftermath of trauma is a time for gathering friends, families, and communities together and reminding one another of belonging.
Thanks to many donors and volunteers, we will keep posting helpful tools and networking here, so keep checking in.