In my career I have worked with clients who have committed murder, who have had multiple cases of sexually assaulting young children or disabled victims, who have been witnesses to traumas of being held at gunpoint, sex trafficking, watching one parent shoot the other, incest by a parent. These are extreme cases and I wish I could say they are rare.
My reactions to mass shootings, the opioid drug epidemic, and other heart-wrenching situations that you wish were not reality, are extremely mixed. I have to react as a human being and as a therapist in the field. Maybe saying I “have to” is not accurate. In actuality, I am just internally torn.
At the end of the day, my opinions do not exactly matter. My personal thoughts about gun control, “stopping the hate,” or trying to discern the meaning behind the madness is not my job. Instead, how I react to these situations is.
I can say that one of my first thoughts is how a mass shooting impacts so much more than the 58 dead and the hundred and hundreds of injured. It impacts their families. Their jobs. Their friends. It impacts the first responders… their families, their friends. It impacts the wife who lost her husband who protected her from being shot, their children, and all of the people that have to support her for years to come to cope with such trauma.
This incident impacts Jason Aldean and the musicians on stage as well as their family and friends. It impacts their career in the business that they dreamed of their entire lives and the feeling they will get going on stage moving forward. It impacts the fan, myself included, that sees him year after year because of his positive messages and soulful contributions to the country music culture.
It impacts everyone at the Mandalay Bay hotel that night: patrons, staff, security. The fear of leaving their home to either vacation or go to work.
When a bomb hits, depending how big, debris can be found miles away. The ground can be felt shaking under our feet. This is no different.
As a professional, working with the most intense cases requires me to look through a different lens. I am in the field of hope, and trying to understand scenarios that most would not even want to think about can test even the most experienced professional’s heartstrings.
So I move forward. As a family member who has experienced tragic loss, a friend of those traumatized by childhood invasive tortures, a fan, and a mental health therapist. What is the appropriate reaction? I don’t know any other way but to look at it as what it is: confusing, sad, mortifying, outraging, and really, really heavy. I take these emotions and my skills and invite others to confide in me in times of need.
I stand as a supporter of those who need help and hope, because I do not always know how else to respond.