Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Virginia Tech Trauma: Patience and Presence

As the nation continues to move forward after the fateful day at Virginia Tech, it is important to realize that hearts and emotions are still wounded by the tragedy. Recovering from a traumatic experience takes time.

Students will be returning to communities throughout the nation during the next few weeks and they will need our presence and understanding. We must be sensitive to each and every person who needs to share their feelings, thoughts, and fears with family, friends and qualified mental health counselors.

[Reprinted from In the Wake of Trauma: Tips for College Students – www.samhsa.gov]

In the Wake of Trauma: Tips for College Students

  • Whether or not you were directly affected by a traumatic event, it is normal to feel anxious about your own safety, to picture the event in your own mind, and to wonder how you would react in an emergency.
  • People react in different ways to trauma. Some may become irritable or depressed; others lose sleep or have nightmares; and others may deny their feelings or simply “blank out” the troubling event. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel after experiencing trauma.
  • While it may feel better to pretend the event did not happen, in the long run, it is best to be honest about your feelings and to allow yourself to acknowledge the sense of loss and uncertainty.
  • It is important to realize that, while things may seem off balance for a while, your life will return to normal.
  • It is important to talk with someone about your sorrow, anger, and other emotions, even though it may be difficult to get started.
  • You may feel most comfortable talking about your feelings with a professor, counselor, or church leader. The important thing is to share your feelings with someone you trust. If you don’t have someone to confide in, call 1-800-273-TALK for someone who will listen.
  • It is common to be angry at people who have caused great pain. This desire comes from our outrage for the innocent victims. We must understand, though, that it is futile to respond with more violence. Nothing good is accomplished by hateful language or actions.
  • While you will always remember the event, the painful feelings will decrease over time, and you will come to understand that, in learning to cope with tragedy, you have become stronger, more adaptable, and more self-reliant.
Tips for Coping

Talk about it. Talking with friends, classmates, professors, and family members will help you realize that you are not alone in your feelings.

Limit media viewing. Take breaks from watching news coverage of the event.

Take care of yourself. Taking good physical care of yourself with rest, exercise, and healthy eating will help your body to deal with stress. Do activities that you enjoy and find relaxing.

Avoid excess. Avoid using alcohol, drugs, and tobacco products as a way of dealing with stress.

Resume routines. Getting back to your daily routines in life can be a good method for regaining a sense of control.

Get involved. Engaging in positive activities like group discussions and candlelight vigils can help promote comfort and healing.

Since human beings are social by nature, we must be open to the positive benefits of sharing our concerns with others. For college students, these concerns can be
  • recovering from a traumatic experience
  • family issues
  • academic challenges
  • alcohol or substance abuse problems
  • suicide prevention
  • depression or anxiety
  • relationship problems
  • health
  • death of family member, friend or acquaintance
Having a kind, empathetic and experienced person to share these and other concerns with allows one to get back on track emotionally, physically and spiritually.

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