Many of us woke Monday morning and were quickly thrust into disbelief and shock as we listened to the news reports of a mass shooting that occurred late Sunday evening in Las Vegas.  Today as we learn more and see more, you may feel yourself struggling to understand how such a shooting could occur. Perhaps like me, in your search for meaning you are asking “how such horrifying thing could happen?” Sadly, my search has more questions than answers today.

What I do know is that whether it is the events of natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes and floods in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico. Of news of terrorist attacks overseas, within our own nation or a tragic even next door my response to such events include shock, disbelief, anger, frustration, doubt and that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Your response may include poor sleep patterns, a lost appetite, or your inability to do ordinary tasks today that were so simple the day before the shootings. Simply put, we are showing signs of grief, loss and bereavement. 

Our word “bereaved” comes from a French word which means, “to be torn apart.” In addition to feelings of sadness and confusion many of us may be questioning the future, our own safety and how to make sense out of senselessness.

The American Psychological Association (APA) Help Center suggests the following Seven Tips in a report of “how to go on living your daily life in the face of adversity” such as a mass shooting. With permission I have included their report below with a link to the full report at http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/index.aspx.

American Psychological Association tips for living following adversity.

  • Talk about it. Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen to your concerns. Receiving support and care can be comforting and reassuring. It often helps to speak with others who have shared your experience so you do not feel so different or alone.
  • Strive for balance. When a tragedy occurs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and have a negative or pessimistic outlook. Balance that viewpoint by reminding yourself of people and events which are meaningful and comforting, even encouraging. Striving for balance empowers you and allows for a healthier perspective on yourself and the world around you.
  • Turn it off and take a break. You may want to keep informed, but try to limit the amount of news you take in whether it’s from the Internet, television, newspapers or magazines. While getting the news informs you, being overexposed to it can actually increase your stress. The images can be very powerful in reawakening your feeling of distress. Also, schedule some breaks to distract yourself from thinking about the incident and focus instead on something you enjoy. Try to do something that will lift your spirits.
  • Honor your feelings. Remember that it is common to have a range of emotions after a traumatic incident. You may experience intense stress similar to the effects of a physical injury. For example, you may feel exhausted, sore or off balance.
  • Take care of yourself. Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of rest and build physical activity into your day. Avoid alcohol and drugs because they can suppress your feelings rather than help you to manage and lessen your distress. In addition, alcohol and drugs may intensify your emotional or physical pain. Establish or re-establish routines such as eating meals at regular times and following an exercise program. If you are having trouble sleeping, try some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
  • Help others or do something productive. Locate resources in your community on ways that you can help people who have been affected by this incident, or have other needs. Helping someone else often has the benefit of making you feel better, too.
  • If you have recently lost friends or family in this or other tragedies. Remember that grief is a long process. Give yourself time to experience your feelings and to recover. For some, this might involve staying at home; for others it may mean getting back to your daily routine. Dealing with the shock and trauma of such an event will take time. It is typical to expect many ups and downs, including "survivor guilt" — feeling bad that you escaped the tragedy while others did not.

These are times for walking not alone but together; the psalmist reminds us that we must journey through the valley of the land of shadows. I choose to translate the 23rd Psalm this way, “Unless we walk through the valley of shadows we will fear the evil.” Such a prods us toward movement and conversation; reminding us that beyond darkened shadows that surround us in the days like these is the Light that makes Shadows of Hope possible.

If you desire an ear to listen, a companion or travel map to negotiate the land(s) of darkness, please call me. 

Bill Arnold
Asbury’s Director of Congregational Care


P.S.: Click here for a list of online tips and tools for those impacted by a mass shooting from the APA/DRN Resource Compilation.