You are not alone.
We lost loved ones and friends, and our community lost its wonderful sense of safety. We are broken.
We survived the initial shock. Now it’s time to look to the future and think about what each of us needs to move successfully through the long and painful process of healing. It will not be easy, we do not know how long it will take, but we will support one another for as long as is needed.
Everyone responds to trauma differently. Trauma is caused by exposure to an event that is perceived as intensely threatening to mind, body, or spirit, accompanied by feelings of helplessness, powerlessness and horror.
Every response is normal. Some of us have been struggling intensely since those first shots were fired on Oct. 27th. Others feel significantly better as time goes on or feel like their emotions bounce up and down from day to day — and even from hour to hour. And there are those of us whose shock and sadness haven’t really felt very intense at all.
The important thing is that we are all taking care of ourselves.
Recognize that your emotional reactions are normal. Even if your feelings are different from those of your friends and loved ones. There is no right way to respond to trauma just as there is no right way to grieve.
Do what feels right to you. If you need to talk, seek companionship. If you are tired, get some rest and sleep. If you feel that you are dragging, you might find that exercise — like taking walks — will help to boost your energy and clear your mind. Engage yourself in activities that soothe or empower you.
Be kind to others. Listen without judgment to the experiences of your loved ones, and share your own thoughts and feelings. Make time for friends and family, but also allow them the time and space that they need.
Be there for your children. Younger children need to be reassured that they are safe and protected. Teenagers may be interested in talking about the societal and political ramifications of this attack. Be prepared to spend time engaged with your children in these conversations at seemingly random moments.
Moderate your news intake. News reports tend to focus on sad events and can be anxiety-provoking. Be sure to get your fill of uplifting and pleasant distractions.
Do something. Helping out other people can help you heal. Try volunteering, attending synagogue services or donating to a cause that you believe in.
Reach out for help when you need it. If you are feeling overwhelmed, or you believe that you’re not getting better, ask for help. Our community has many qualified mental health professionals that JFCS can connect you with. And JFCS is offering a variety of support groups to help people move through the recovery process together. You are not alone.
Recovery from grief and trauma is not a linear process. We will all experience many peaks and valleys in our emotions over the coming months and years, and that is normal. Some of these will happen in response to triggering events, like holidays or other mass shootings. Other emotional changes will seem to happen for no apparent reason. And again, this is normal.
Jewish Family and Community Services stands ready to help you, just as we have done for the past 81 years. Visit our community support website (jfcspgh.org/communitysupport), which we will keep updated with opportunities and services in the months ahead. JFCS has grown strong because of your support, and we now offer our shoulders for you to lean on. PJC
Jordan Golin, Psy.D., is president and CEO of Jewish Family and Community Services.