I've been speaking with clients and friends all day about the sensitive emotions we're feeling in LGBTQ community after the Orlando Pulse incident.
So many people feeling intense sadness, fear, and anger about the shootings and so many lovely people asking me "What's wrong with me?" and "Do I have a right to feel anything even so far away from the tragedy?"
I wanted to write this across the sky for my queer family today, so I thought I would write it here to start. I wanted to begin by addressing the second question "Do I have a right to feel anything?"
Yes, you have every right to feel intense emotions after an intense incident.
Yes, you have every right to feel scared after seeing someone experience something scary.
Yes, you have every right to feel shock and disbelief at something so completely disturbing.
Yes, you have every right to feel anger when witnessing such incredible injustice.
Yes, you have every right to feel your feelings.
Your suffering may not be the same as those more closely related to the victims at the Pulse, but your suffering is real and valid. An attack on any one part of our LGBTQ community is an attack on all of us.
You are feeling powerful feelings because this event was like no other.
Your feelings, your empathy, comes from the deep sweet part of you most able to connect with others. When we lose touch with our ability to empathize we lose power as a community.
But being empathetically connected to others during a tragedy is heartbreaking. It is totally normal to feel many different things. Here are some common reactions:
Shock is like extreme surprise and is a person's emotional protection from being too overwhelmed by the actual event. You may be stunned, numb, or in disbelief. You might not know what to say or think. You might not feel anything at all.
There is nothing wrong with experiencing shock.
The most common feeling found following traumatic events like this. It may become quite intense and be experienced as emptiness or despair.
This most recent incident is especially personal to LGBTQ communities and can bring up all kinds of sadness about safety, acceptance, and belonging. Give your sadness space.
Anger is a common response to feeling powerless, frustrated, or even abandoned. You might notice it when reading your facebook feed or it might show up in traffic.
It's not uncommon for couples to bicker more after a tragedy. Anger is a perfectly valid reaction, but notice if irritability is showing up for you before it impacts your relationship.
Anxiety ranges from basic insecurity to full-blown panic attacks.You might notice yourself start feeling overly cautious about leaving the house, attending Pride, or going to other events. You might worry about friends or family. You might start to fear coming out at all.
Fear and anxiety can be the most paralyzing after an event like the Orlando murders. And there can be added pressure to attend vigils or go out to demonstrate solidarity.
Finding supportive community can be especially healing- but remember, you get to choose when and where feels safe for you. Start small if you need to when overcoming fear and anxiety.
Here's some more information on "normal" responses to tragedy.
Some things you might want to do to help get through the tragedy:
- Keep busy. Focus on your projects and classroom assignments. Research indicates keeping focused on day to day required tasks or routines helps mitigate the effects of stress.
- Seek out people who care. Share your reactions, thoughts and how the experience impacted you. Listen, ask for hugs, and connect with people who love you.
- Know that the reactions to trauma listed here are normal responses to a very abnormal experience. They occur in varying degrees of severity and type for each person. There's no one right way to react.
- Prioritize self-care: eat well, get your sleep, drink lots of water, go for a walk. Do all the most nurturing things.
- Express your feelings with art. When we write, Draw, paint it can help to manage the feelings related to trauma. Consider writing a journal of your experience or feelings.
- Spend time with quiet. Use meditation, reading, spiritual reflection, yoga to help you stay healthy and spiritually connected.
- Find a way to help. Helping others is often the healthiest way to manage our own feelings of powerlessness. Donate blood, money, food or send messages to people most impacted by the incident.
Talking about it can help
Seek counseling if your reactions stick around a long time or significantly impact your day-to-day life. If you can't make it to work, stop checking facebook, keep worrying endlessly, are afraid to leave the house, or stop taking good care of yourself these might be signs you could use someone to talk with.
If the feelings don't go away
It’s normal to feel sad, numb, or angry following something this upsetting- even if you don't know anyone in Orlando. As time passes, these emotions will become less intense as you start to move forward.
But if you aren’t feeling better over time, or your grief is getting worse, it may be a sign that your grief is growing- and again, it's a good time to reach out for help.