Trying to Make Sense Out of the Senseless: Orlando, an American Tragedy

Two people hugging and crying together

By Dr. Sheri Clark

In the early morning hours, many of us woke up to the news that 50 people had been senselessly killed in Orlando, Florida this past Sunday. It is not the first time we have heard about mass shootings, yet, it still devastates us as a Nation. Events like this may lead us to hold our loved ones a bit closer, make us wonder about how we can protected our country from events like this in the future, or ponder about big existential questions. However we process events like this it is important to remember you are not alone and there is no “right way” to respond to tragedies.

We recognize the “new norm” to become completely engrossed in the news and find it difficult to turn away from the numerous programs reporting story highlights and news updates.  Our “wired world” and daily reliance on social media leave us completely connected to endless amounts of information, news and stimuli via televisions, computers and smart phones.  In general, we as a society are driven to “know more” and we sometimes get engrossed in details. Perhaps it is our way of showing that we care, or perhaps it is our way of trying to understand or control something that feels so out of control.

Regardless of our reason, it is important to recognize that the news that we “consume” will undoubtedly affect us.  Given this, it may be important to limit the amount of time we spend watching or listening to the details of the event.

Other common responses to tragic events:

  • Felling numb, being in denial or experiencing shock
  • Feeling vulnerable or unsafe
  • Experiencing anxiety, worry or even panic
  • Feeling irritable, moody, agitated, or angry
  • Being hyper-alert or vigilant
  • Experiencing disturbing images
  • Having headaches, fatigue or sleep disturbances
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless
  • Feeling sad, despair and crying
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Being Withdrawal or isolation
  • Remembering other life traumas
  • Having confusion, forgetfulness, or memory impairment
  • Increases in use of alcohol or other substances to cope with disturbing feelings

However, it is also not unusual to have no reaction at all.

On a personal note, we here at BPC have been personally affected by the senseless acts of violence in the early-morning hours of June 12th.   One of our clinical staff is a member of the LGBT community, and we are all active Allies and Advocates.  It was very moving for her to be a part of the “Pray For Orlando Candlelight Vigil” at the Pride Center here in Phoenix.  It was a remarkable night filled political and religious leaders speaking about the importance of uniting under the “Love Will Always Win” banner.  This was one way that we processed the trauma from the violence in Orlando.

However you chose to process the tragic events, know that you are not alone.