There is no prescribed path out of trauma. As the one year mark of the shooting on Oct. 27 approaches, it is natural to be sharply reminded of “that day.” What you were doing, how close (or not) you might have been to the scene of the massacre, how you coped (or didn’t) with your feelings about the day our community changed forever.
As much as therapists might say everybody’s reaction to trauma is different, as is the path to healing and recovery, many people might struggle with their feelings one year later. Why do I still feel so bad when I wasn’t even there? I survived when others didn’t; I can’t get past that. It didn’t affect me because I wasn’t there — am I a terrible person?
“The key is to take the time to face your feelings whatever they are,” says Stefanie Small, clinical director at Jewish Family and Community Services. “Sweeping things under the rug is a very apt metaphor. The dirt doesn’t go away.”
JFCS will be offering community support opportunities during the month of October for anyone struggling with suppressed or unresolved issues related to the events of Oct. 27. Visit the JFCS Community Support webpage (jfcspgh.org/communitysupport). All activities are free.
Angelica Joy Miskanin is an art therapist who specializes in trauma. She was hired by JFCS after the tragedy to help individual clients cope with the aftermath of the shooting. “I’ve often heard some of my clients report feeling they should be over it by now, despite the fact that they are experiencing very real and common symptoms that follow this kind of traumatic event.”
She stresses once again that reaction to trauma and the path to resolution is influenced by any number of personal factors: age, previous trauma history, socioeconomic status, support systems, self-care practices, and many other factors. And anniversaries of significant and traumatic events can certainly reignite symptoms. This could include the anniversary date itself, but often can include the days leading up to and following that date.
The prevalence of mass shootings since last October also merits serious consideration. As these events happen more and more, in all kinds of different settings, it’s not surprising that some level of anxiety and/or depression persists for many people.
The old saying about the best time to plant a tree — 20 years ago — and the next best time: today, applies here. The best time to look for help is sooner than later, but now is also good. If you need help, please visit the JFCS Community Support webpage (jfcspgh.org/communitysupport), or call 412-521-3800 for individual counseling. pjc
Iris Valanti is public relations associate at Jewish Family and Community Services.