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NSU Expert Provides Tips on Dealing with Grief in the Wake of Tragic Events

Orlando Shooting May Bring a Sense of Grief & Hopelessness - How to Address Those Feelings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

FORT LAUDERDALE/DAVIE, Fla. – As the world tries to make sense of the tragic incident that occurred in Orlando, Florida, one aspect that has to be addressed is how people process shock and grief. To help, Scott Poland, Ed.D., a professor in Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) College of Psychology, has put together the following insight into dealing with grief in light of such events:

  1. Every individual has their own unique history of crisis and loss. When another tragedy happens, especially those covered extensively in the media, many issues surrounding our own personal losses can surface. Grief is complicated and very individualized. Many of those affected will have the “if only” thoughts, such as “if only we had not gone to the nightclub” or “if I had somehow responded quicker and done something to disarm the gunmen or to get my loved one about of the way.” This is a normal reaction to such a tragedy; however, if those feelings persist it is important to seek help in dealing with their emotions.
  1. It is very important to limit television coverage for everyone, but especially for children, as the coverage is often very graphic and involves survivors retelling about the tragedy or the family of the victims expressing powerful emotions. It is not that adults cannot watch some coverage, but the wise adult would turn off the television and call a friend, walk the dog, plant flowers and do the things that relieve stress for them.

Parents know their children best, but a good rule of thumb is that children under the age of approximately 12 should not watch the news coverage. Their parents need to model hope and optimism and provide truthful information about the scope of the tragedy and explain where it occurred and clarify the distance from where the child resides. It’s inevitable that children will hear about this and other such tragedies, which is why they need to be assured of their safety and any questions they ask need to be answered, but parents do not need to overload them with information. The typical reactions that children have to a tragedy are the following: regression academically and behaviorally; nightmares; worries about the future; and sleeping problems. Parents/guardians need to respond with patience and love and realize these are normal reactions.

  1. All of those affected need to be asked who or what has helped them when they have dealt with previous traumatic events. The purpose of the question is ensure that they are utilizing support systems that have been in place before. The most common response to this question is family, faith and friends.
  1. Circles of Vulnerability Identification of those most affected utilizing the circle of vulnerability model as who was physically present, saw their friend being injured and have been dealing with other losses, such as having a loved one die recently. This is a psychological triage, and my experience has been that schools and communities do not think this way. If they did, then they’d realize that recovery, if at all, for some (approximately 20%) will certainly take a long time. Crisis intervention assistance is only usually offered for a short time when those most affected may struggle for months and years with the tragedy.

And it is not just those who were involved in the initial tragic incident who are going to need assistance and counseling; so, too, will those first responders who arrived on scene and were involved in taking out the shooter and then assessing the situation (i.e. identifying the victims, etc.) Just because they are police officers or other emergency responders who we believe have training to handle these types of situations, they are human beings and can be affected by seeing what they see.

Most importantly, if anyone is feeling overwhelmed by the events that transpired in Orlando – or any other traumatic event in their lives and they having difficulties dealing with it – there are organizations in your community that can help. In South Florida, NSU has a number of psychological clinics available – from family violence to anxiety to child and family services – just call 954-262-5730 to schedule an appointment to meet with someone and get the help you need.

 

About the Author:
Scott Poland, Ed.D.,
is a professor in NSU’s College of Psychology. He is a nationally recognized expert on school crisis, youth violence, suicide intervention, self-injury, school safety, threat assessment, parenting and the delivery of psychological services in schools. Poland is a founding member of the National Emergency Assistance Team for the National Association of School Psychologists and serves as the Prevention Director for the American Association of Suicidology. He has led multiple national crisis teams following numerous school shootings and suicides and served as the team leader of the crisis response team sent to Jefferson County Public Schools during the aftermath of the Columbine High School shootings.

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 About Nova Southeastern University (NSU): Located in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is a dynamic research institution dedicated to providing high-quality educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and first-professional degree levels. A private, not-for-profit institution with more than 26,000 students, NSU has campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, while maintaining a presence online globally. For more than 50 years, NSU has been awarding degrees in a wide range of fields, while fostering groundbreaking research and an impactful commitment to community. Classified as a research university with “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, NSU is 1 of only 50 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification, and is also the largest private, not-for-profit institution in the United States that meets the U.S. Department of Education’s criteria as a Hispanic-serving Institution. Please visit www.nova.edu for more information about NSU and realizingpotential.nova.edu for more information on the largest fundraising campaign in NSU history.

 

June 15, 2016

Joe Donzelli | Office of Public Affairs
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