Blog Postpost

Posted Tuesday July, 5th 2022

How Therapists Can Support Parents and Children Impacted by Mass Shootings


Weeks later I still find myself deeply affected by the Highland Park parade shooting, considering it was so close to home. As a trained professional I had to deal with my own feelings and emotions surrounding the situation, but I also knew I wanted to do more to help those affected by the event.

I took the opportunity to offer therapy services to students at a local school. I had the chance to meet with three 12 year olds; they were all friends. Two of the young ladies were in the parade, and one had overslept and was dealing with being frightened and wondering if her friends were okay.

Everyone reacts to tragedy differently, and one of the girls I met with said she ran immediately. She said, “I was the first one up to run, but I could have called attention to myself.” She was experiencing a sense of peril. “I did something and then I went over the decision in my mind and wondered about my choice.” The other girl said she had a hard life with being sick as a child. She described her experience, “...this wasn’t the worst thing that’s happened to me, so I can deal with it.” But, her body language said differently, it was clearly resonating with the trauma experienced; she was shaking and having tremors as she spoke about the ordeal. The other girl was overcome with guilt as she felt she should have been there. Her friends reassured her that it was good that she wasn’t there, but she felt that she should have been.

This is the reality of dealing with a traumatic event that you have no control over. Yes, all three left the situation safe and unharmed, but they were still living through it, and will struggle with it for the rest of their lives. I feel privileged to have met these three young ladies, who were being very candid and seeking help. I couldn’t help but wonder about the other kids that didn’t come for therapy.

While this was a traumatic event, experienced first hand or not, the resilience of these three young ladies was admirable and worth imitation. They experienced tragedy, but therapy was made available and they came together, they were able to talk about what they experienced. They had friendship and support. As individuals, a social group, and a community it will stick with them forever, but they took initiative for their own help and healing.

While we all may experience traumatic situations beyond our control, the choice to find healing and help is something we can seek. As therapists and mental health leaders there are always ways we can help those affected by traumatic events. Check out the article below to learn more about ways you can provide support.

To the therapists working with families who witnessed the Highland Park parade shooting on July 4th, or to any family that has witnessed gun violence, my heart goes out to you. I recently went to a Highland Park school to provide emotional first aid to affected families.... read full article from Psychotherapy Networker here.

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