I’ve had an overwhelming response through my website, from friends, and through social media about the Route 91 Harvest tragedy. I feel like everyone in my community knows someone who was there. A few people have asked me what they should do now and how they should care for themselves as they come to terms with the trauma they have been through. So I wanted to write about what I could have done differently had I known what I know now. I hope this helps.
Right now, those of you who’ve been impacted may be healing from a physical wound, you are in shock, your body is trying to process the adrenaline and rush of other stress hormones, or you are both mentally and physically exhausted. The event may even seem like a bad dream. You are trying to move on as the mother, father, employee, wife, husband, and friend you were before Sunday. You are trying to figure out how to speak to your children about what you have been through. You are trying to pick up the pieces of your life and figure out what your future looks like now that you have witnessed the unthinkable.
You are not alone. I and many other survivors have been in your shoes.
When my trauma happened I had an infant and three year old at the time and didn’t allow myself to process what I had been through. Fast forward three years and the trauma began coming out of me in many uncomfortable physical ways. I didn’t have strong enough coping skills in place and wound up hospitalized. This could have been avoided if I had known the serious signs of PTSD to look for and if I had asked for help sooner.
I encourage you to find a trauma therapist or a psychologist who specializes in trauma soon. In addition to working through the trauma you have been through they will help you build coping skills that you will need in your daily life. With life demands and busy schedules it can take some time before you see someone who can help you so I want to share some things you can start to do at home to jump start your healing process.
First, turn off your television and limit your exposure to the images from the event. You already know what happened and exposing yourself to the story over and over again can trigger a whole host of mental challenges that you don’t have the tools to cope with yet. Instead, focus on you. Talk about your trauma, journal, share your pain with everyone from the bank teller to your faith leader, confide in friends and family, and get your feelings out. Your community wants to help you and all you need to do is explain that you are a Route 91 Harvest survivor and people will want to show you their love! Avoid overusing alcohol or other substances to cope as well. This isn’t healthy and it can create unhealthy dependencies that can make your recovery so much more difficult. Ground yourself by taking walks, laying in the grass, meditating and praying. Focus on getting good sleep, eating healthy nourishing foods, and drinking a lot of water. Make yourself your first priority.
Try to focus only on the day before you. As you have witnessed, life can change in an instant. So concentrate on finding gratitude each day for the amazing things in your life that you probably overlooked before. Therapy has taught me that dwelling on the past leads to depression and looking towards the future may cause anxiety. Knowing this and practicing this has taken time and great effort but has brought me so much peace.
Finally, continue to tune in to your mood changes, sleep disturbances, stomach upset or other physical changes (rapid heart rate, chest pain, choking sensation while you eat, rapid breathing, etc.), and your overall mental health. Your psychologist can also help you identify symptoms that are PTSD related and if trauma therapy like EMDR therapy is a necessary step for you.
Educating yourself on trauma and PTSD will empower you to fight for yourself. Only you can fight this fight for yourself but there are many people, like myself, who can help you along the way.
A few resources listed on my PTSD Resources page may be good for you to look over.
There isn’t a roadmap for healing from trauma and what works for me might not work for you and so I urge you to be open-minded as you search for healing.
You are in my prayers. You are deeply loved. You will bloom from this. I am proof.