(Photo credit to JimmyFortune)
It has taken a while to process the events that occurred in Las Vegas two weeks ago. I wrote about what happened; I tore it up and wrote it again. Then I stared at the white screen of my computer but I’m still compelled to write, to make some sense out of such a nonsensical tragic event. We all need to process this horror, each in our own way.
A maniac rented a luxury suite at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino for the sole purpose of gunning down as many people as possible. How could that not hit us like a ton of concrete bricks lobbed at the very soul of our humanity.
The event was so toxic for our society. We have one hate-filled event after another it seems. It’s manifested in a a festering boil on our hearts. It must drain so that our society can heal–and change, I hope.
For all of us, but particularly for those who are empaths as I am, events like this one–or Sandy Hook (you name them, we have a rainbow of senseless acts of cruelty and violence). But if you grew up in a violent home, with abuse and childhood trauma, the shooting in Las Vegas can work as a trigger, bringing back our own post-traumatic events.
I wasn’t at the event and don’t know of anyone who was harmed yet the news of this tragedy hit me as hard as any loss I’ve experienced. I’m sure it did for many of you as well. I was shell-shocked after, walking through my day in a daze, stunned that one small person could wipe out so many useful, wonderful, interesting, and most of all, beloved, human beings. I have a feeling many of you also felt that same stunned shock.
Now, as the shock wears away comes the aftermath. For those of us on the outside, it will remain with us for a long time (Sandy Hook still brings tears to my eyes). But for the victims of the loved ones, the grief will consume their seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. For all the rest of us, we need to find our way out of this violent hell America seems to have found itself in.
As someone who has lost several people I loved deeply, including my first husband, I know grief never goes away. It fades but never vanishes. All the people I know who have found spots in my heart leave holes in their place when they pass away—holes that are never replaced—because we are all so unique, there is a not a person who can replace another human being you have loved.
As a psychologist, I have some advice for people who are friends of those directly affected by this tragedy. Note—we are all affected; anyone who has a modicum of compassion and empathy for their fellow human beings feels the shock, bewilderment and grief of such a horrific act of one American’s assault upon a huge group of his fellow Americans. Many people don’t know how to deal with a loved one’s grief—it’s hard to know what to say and do when something so horrific and senseless takes human lives in such a careless but direct manner.
The hardest part of losing a loved one is not the immediate aftermath, but the months down the road, after the headlines have moved on to another tragedy. Friends that knew your loved one will move on. Healing for them is different than it is for you But just because you have finished processing what happened, have picked up the pieces, and are moving on with your life, it’s likely that your friend who has lost someone he/she loves has not moved on—or at least not to the extent of others.
For me, the hardest time in grieving a loved one came later, after people had moved on. The casseroles, phone calls, and ‘I’m here for you’ moments that we shared were no longer there. I think most people didn’t realize that I was still shell-shocked and needed more support. We need people to remind us of the purpose in life. I urge people to pick up the phone six months down the line and ask how your friends are doing. Take them out to lunch or dinner—remember. They are used to having someone to go on dates with, to wake up with, and to experience life.
Nothing is more important to healing than a strong support system and people need support for months and even years after something so devastating. The death of any loved one hurts but when the death occurs in such a senseless manner, we can’t help but wonder why this keeps occurring. How can any one person hate humankind so much as to wreak such havoc on life, to cause so much pain and suffering?
There will be time later to discuss the causes of the increase of violence we have seen. Events like Las Vegas have become far too common. It seems as though each deranged perpetrator tries to outdo the next.
We have a huge mental health problem in our country and we aren’t doing enough about it. We have stigmatized mental health illness for years and we must combat that stigmatization. Mental health should be on par with physical health. No one feels shame for having high blood pressure treated but somehow, we feel we have to hide that we are dealing with depression. Our society needs to learn to discuss these issues because that is the only way to find solutions. Therefore, it is up to the loved ones of the people who may be harboring such hatred in their hearts—we must remain diligent to the behavior of the people we know. If someone is acting very strange, is withdrawn, and jokes about “taking out a bunch of people” then take it seriously. Call someone. Alert a loved one of the person. We all have to do much more.
Our government needs to do much more. Mental health coverage is lacking compared to physical health maladies. We need to make mental health treatment as easy as going to a drugstore to pick up a bottle of aspirin. We need to do much more to treat this disease, which has struck the hearts of human beings and is manifesting, as we have never seen it before.
People are dead. This will happen again, we all know that. We need to open free/affordable and available mental health clinics that people should be able to walk into for help. We need universal background checks to make sure we aren’t putting guns into the hands of people who hold the darkest thoughts imaginable within them.
Whatever we’ve been doing isn’t working so we need to try something else. I believe in our second amendment rights but I believe there are those who should not have that right and we need to weed them out.
We need to do more—and we need to do it better.