Processing Las Vegas Shooting/Tom Petty Death

The Morning Show


Daniel Applegate from Compass Counseling & Consulting. 

Can you tell us a little bit about what you have heard when talking to people the last couple of days about the impact this shooting is having on kids and people in general?

Like with any mass casualty trauma, there are a lot more questions than answers. Some kids are wondering if it safe to go out to social gatherings, community events, and even school functions. There is a lot of anxiety emerging through secondary or vicarious trauma. While I am in no way comparing this tragedy to that of September 11, this may be this generation’s version.  The exposure of information and access on TV and the internet is enormous, and oftentimes files anxiety and fear.

And what about parents and teachers? What concerns are they expressing?

Mostly it’s how to talk to your kids about something like this. Some of us may have unfortunately been somewhat desensitized to mass shootings, because they have become all too common. However, for kids who have not had to deal with the emotion and anxiety that can come from something like this, even if you weren’t there, it can be incredibly confusing and emotional. 

I am also hearing from parents and school counselors that kids want to reach out for help and to seek counseling, but there is a stigma attached to seeking counseling, even with kids. I want to say emphatically, that there is nothing wrong with seeking help and counseling in helping you to figure out and process your feelings, ever. Especially if you are struggling to make sense out of what happened in Vegas.  

What about feeling safe at events such as the one in Vegas?

A lot of these kids go to outdoor music festivals, and they want some assurance that they will be safe. At most venues, an attack like that would not have been possible. This tragedy would not have happened at an arena, a stadium show, or an amphitheater. However, there are festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and any number of outdoor, open air festivals, where they are already talking about how to make fan safety as much as a concern as band/artist safety. 

How can people manage their distress and help their children in the aftermath of a mass shooting?

        Talk about it. Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen to your concerns. Receiving support and care can be comforting and reassuring. 
        Strive for balance. When a tragedy occurs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and have a negative or pessimistic outlook. Balance that by surrounding yourself with positive people you trust, and that people and events are meaningful and comforting. Striving for balance empowers you and allows for a healthier perspective on yourself and the world around you.
        Turn it off and take a break. You may want to keep informed, but try to limit the amount of news you take in. While getting the news informs you, being overexposed to it can actually increase your stress.  Try to do something that will lift your spirits.
        Honor your feelings. Remember that it is common to have a range of emotions after a traumatic incident. You may experience intense stress similar to the effects of a physical injury. For example, you may feel exhausted, sore or off balance.
        Take care of yourself. Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of rest and build physical activity into your day. Self care!
        If you have recently lost friends or family in this or other tragedies. Remember that grief is a long process. Give yourself time to experience your feelings and to recover. For some, this might involve staying at home; for others it may mean getting back to your daily routine. Dealing with the shock and trauma of such an event will take time. It is typical to expect many ups and downs, including “survivor guilt” — feeling bad that you escaped the tragedy while others did not.

You also indicated that some kids have been having a hard time hearing of the passing of Tom Petty? Can you talk a little about that?

I was quite surprised by this myself. I was incredibly saddened by the news, and I expected that people over 30 would be hit hard by this, but I am seeing kids online having a real difficulty. I suppose it comes from Petty being one of those artists that is passed down from generation to generation. And this is a different loss than a lot of the big musician losses the last few years. This wasn’t an overdose, and his music affected so many for so long. Processing a loss like this one, even though we may not have known Tom Petty, is a grieving process, and that’s ok. 

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