By Gail Lapidus, Chief Executive Officer

 

It must have been surreal. Imagine sitting in a movie theater, expecting to watch an intense, action-packed film, only to find yourself in the middle of a massacre.

That was what played out early Friday morning at a theater in Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. Twelve people at the theater were killed and dozens more, including an infant, were injured. Countless others – in Colorado and beyond – will suffer emotional trauma related to this unspeakable incident.

Shocking, terrifying, senseless tragedies like the one in Colorado can traumatize anyone. The survivors. Victims’ friends and families. First responders. Even though Aurora is 680 miles away from Tulsa, the massacre could impact you and your children. 

Stressful, frightening events – experienced directly or via news reports – can shatter your sense of security and leave you feeling vulnerable. Some typical trauma responses, which may appear immediately or weeks after an event, include anger, irritation, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, sadness and depression. Traumatized individuals may also experience changes in their eating and sleeping patterns, become hyper-vigilant or have difficulty concentrating and making decisions.

Children can experience these same symptoms. Consider limiting your child’s exposure to news reports on the tragedy. Young children often lack the ability to cognitively process news reports; kids who watch replays of a traumatic event may be fooled into thinking that more than one incident have happened. Be honest with your children about your sadness and fears – kids are better at picking up on their parents’ emotions than hounds are at detecting fox’s scents – but reassure them that they’re safe now, and you’re working diligently to protect them.

Recovering from a traumatic event takes time. Exactly how long varies widely from person to person. But if symptoms interfere with daily activities now or are still pervasive after a few months, you may need professional help in healing.

 

Family & Children’s Services offers a wide range of services for children and adults who’ve suffered trauma, are struggling with mental illness or addiction, or have other behavioral health needs. Our caring, professional staff is highly qualified and trained in best practices.

 

Links to related resources and news stories:

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Talking to your child after a violent tragedy like the Colorado shootings

Tips for talking to your child about the Colorado shooting spree