Emotional Recovery after Trauma | Batman:The Dark Knight Rises | Colorado Shooting | James Holmes |

It should have been a normal evening of candy, popcorn and a movie. No one would have suspected to walk into a movie theatre and get gunned-down. When 24-year-old James Holmes walked into an Aurora, CO movie theatre packed with men, women and children, no one suspected that he would do the unthinkable? Holmes is accused of opening fire on a theatre filled with moviegoers enjoying the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. The result…12 dead and 58 injured according to police reports.

The first question is why? Why did this happen? Some believe the video game industry to be the culprit. Others insist mental health is the issue; possibly severe untreated Paranoia Schizophrenia. The very nature of paranoia makes the person not trust doctors, psychiatrists or anyone for treatment and may fear they are being poisoned.  There their symptoms of fear and paranoia get worse and worse each day without treatment and are afraid of everyone!  Whatever the answer, there are still further questions concerning our safety. When tragedy strikes, it hits the very core of society’s security. Are we safe? Are our children safe? What should we do? How do we grieve the loss of life and security?

After attending a recent showing of The Dark Knight Rises, I could not help glancing at the exits while watching the movie. “What were the viewers thinking when they heard the first shot?” There must have been moments of disbelief that ultimately evolved into complete terror. This terror has transferred to the grieving families that stood outside the Colorado movie theatre waiting for their loved ones to exit…but, they never did. How can we cope with the loss of safety?

The impact of a tragedy like the Colorado shooting permeates far beyond the state borders of Colorado. Although this occurrence is isolated to Colorado, the aftershock is felt in millions nationwide. The emotional trauma may result in a variety of confusing and overwhelming feelings. There is a necessary emotional healing process, which must take place the same way one heals from a physical wound. So, what can one do to assist in the emotional recovery process?

Tip #1 —Identify the symptoms of emotional stress:

-Shaking or trembling
-Racing thoughts
-Upset stomach
-Dizzy or faint
-Cold sweats
-Difficulty falling or staying asleep
-Irritability or outbursts of anger
-Difficulty concentrating
-Feeling detached
-Feeling fearful
-Avoiding places where event took place

Tip #2 Develop a sense of community/Support system

It will be important to connect with others despite the temptation to retreat. It is common for those who experience symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or emotional trauma to withdraw from others and from social activities. It is necessary to identify your support system. A support system may be defined as family, friends, church members, etc. The people who understand you and care about you will create a support system for you when you need it the most. In addition, you may be able to connect with others that have experienced the same traumatic event. Your support system is an intricate part of your emotional healing process.

Four ideas for creating a sense of community during this difficult time:

-Make definitive plans with friends and family (dinner, shopping, errands, etc.)
-Join a support group in your area (community organizations, counseling centers, churches, etc)
-Reach out and connect with others that have experienced the same event or trauma
-Become a part of events, memorials, or community efforts related to the traumatic occurrence

-Reach out to others. Talk about what you are going through with friends and family.  Write out how you are feeling, if that helps you express things best. There is no need to go through this alone. You might be surprised how many people around you were also affected by this tragedy.

Tip #3 Refrain from media exposure

Every traumatic event is maximized by heavy media coverage. Often times, overly exaggerated stories provoke additional fear, anxiety and stress. It is important to establish healthy media boundaries in your life while healing from emotional trauma. When an unexpected tragic event occurs, it becomes news worthy and may additionally add to the trauma. Viewing excessive media coverage of a tragic event may trigger emotions and cause painful reminders of the tragedy.

-Refrain from too much exposure to media-driven coverage of the event
-If you choose to watch coverage of the event, take time to process your feelings with
family and friends

 Tip #4 Understand how you respond to trauma

It is important to know that, whatever you are feeling, it is perfectly normal. Some cry to express their deep sadness, while others experience anger and rage at the situation, others seek to understand why it happened and need this information to experience “closure”. There are many different ways people respond to trauma, grief, and loss.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The important part is to let yourself go through whatever it is you need to go through. Don’t try to hold it all back to “be strong” or assume that showing emotion is somehow showing weakness. Grieving is as normal and essential to the human experience as eating and breathing.

Tip #5 Take care of yourself

Take care of yourself and your health. How you feel physically often affects how you feel emotionally, and vice versa. It is important to keep yourself healthy, maintain all typical hygiene, diet, and routine habits. When you are home, open windows, let light and fresh air in. Let yourself go outside and get active, doing exercise can do wonders for feeling better physically and emotionally. Eat right and, if you do get sick, get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. People often find that their health takes a turn for the worse when they undergo grief, trauma, or depression. This, too, is a perfectly normal response.

Tip #6 Seek professional help

Seek professional help if: the trauma or grief is getting in the way of daily life activities, you find yourself thinking that life is not worth living, you feel emotionally “numb”, the things in life that used to bring you joy no longer do, over time the feelings of loss or trauma are getting worse rather than progressively better, are experiencing nightmares or find yourself haunted by the events long after they happened.  There are various fast effective trauma therapy tools that can bring relief in the first session and sometimes only need 1-3 sessions to let go of past hurts, loss or trauma.  Here are a few: Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Rapid Resolution Trauma Therapy, Hypnotherapy, and EMDR.  These are quite effective and bring fast relief!

We still don’t have all the facts regarding why this terrible event at a common movie theatre took place. As we all seek to understand what happened and begin to heal, it is important that we band together as a nation and focus on getting through this as one united community. We may never forget what happened but, with time and patience, we can heal from the pain and find a new way to make our days count.

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information below intact.

Author: Jada Collins, MA, MS. Register Mental Health Counselor Intern | Author, International Communicator & Life Coach

Author: Jennell Evans, Total Life Counseling Center Intern

Edited by James West, MA, LMHC, NCC | Author, International Communicator, Coach & Counselor