Las Vegas Tragedy: Getting Through Grief

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Our hearts go out to all affected by the recent shooting in Las Vegas. During these tragic events, it is important to know how to recognize and cope with the signs of sadness and grief for yourself and loved ones.

We often think of the term grief on a personal level — the loss of a loved one or pet, maybe the end of a relationship or job. But feelings of sadness are also common when tragic events happen to others near or far.

“A city, society, country, or any large group may collectively feel tremendous loss of the belief in the world as a safe place, or grieve for innocent victims of events out of their control,” says JoAnne Fontana, L.C.S.W., outpatient therapist with Renown Behavioral Health.

Signs of Grief: What to Watch For

In the days following a tragedy, it’s important to support one another and remember the signs of grief are not always easy to recognize and can show up in a variety of ways. Here are some things to watch for:

Emotional symptoms

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Confusion
  • Guilt

Physical symptoms

  • Exhaustion
  • Restless
  • Unable to sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aches and pains
  • Forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating or making decisions

“Frequently, grief will be experienced as a combination of symptoms, ebbing and flowing, with a person having ‘good days and bad days,’” Fontana says.

 

Grieving People Need Other People

Whether it is a personal loss or something larger like this tragic shooting, “grieving people need other people for reassurance, support and information,” Fontana says. “Some will ask for help, others won’t.”

How You Can Help Yourself — and Others — Grieve

Many people find talking about their loss helpful, whether it is with family, friends or a licensed professional. Grief support groups are another good resource since some people may not feel comfortable sharing, but may find comfort listening to someone else’s experience.

If you prefer to get through grief alone, journaling your thoughts and feelings or listening to meditation tapes can help calm and focus you on dealing with your emotions.

“Depending on the loss, a grieving person may also need help with practical matters,” Fontana says. “Child care, preparing meals or running errands can all be helpful. Offering your help rather than asking the person to ‘call if they need anything’ is a good rule of thumb.”

It’s also important to get enough sleep, eat well, take part in activities that lift your spirits and enjoy down time to help balance yourself as you grieve.

When to Seek Professional Help

No two people grieve the same way and there is no set “timetable” for grieving. Both those things make it difficult to evaluate when you or someone you love may need professional help.

Some disruption of your everyday life is normal while grieving, but once you see significant impacts, it is important to seek professional help. “For example, persistent difficulty sleeping or eating,” Fontana says. “Or an inability to function adequately at work or home are symptoms that would benefit from a consult with a family physician or mental health professional.”

Of course, if a person resorts to substance abuse or addictive behaviors, it’s also critical to encourage them to seek help immediately.

If you’d like to seek out that help now, you can contact Renown Behavioral Health at 775-982-5318, ext. 1.

Also, Renown Hospice Care offers a free grief support group for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one. The group meets the first and third Tuesday of every month from 2-3:30 p.m. at Sparks Senior Center, and the first and third Wednesday of every month from 6:30-8 p.m. at Reno Senior Center. Call 775-982-2817 or email KCrites@renown.org.

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