How to cope with the trauma of the Newtown shooting

December 17, 2012 4:01:22 AM PST
An expert on the effects of trauma says Friday's school massacre has had a psychological impact not just on those in Newtown, but all who have been following the tragic story.

Dr. Ani Kalayjian, author of the book "Mass Trauma and Emotional Healing Around the World", discussed the shooting on Eyewitness News Sunday morning.

Dr. Kalayjian, who has worked with survivors of the Holocaust, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and 9/11, says everyone needs to realize the emotional effects of the events in Newtown. "It's like a tsunami, the emotional level, the physical level, the social-economic level, and the spiritual level," she said.

"We are experiencing what is called secondary, vicarious trauma and it's just as serious as the actual trauma because we're witnessing and we can imagine and feel and sense how it is going through that, and these are children that haven't had a chance to live. Of course they're part of us and it affects us all around the world."

She added that parents should be aware of the impact of the tragedy on their children.

"In children there will be a lot of changes in their behavior such as not sleeping regularly, having stomach aches or physical complaints, not wanting to go to school for example, because the trauma happened in school, re-experiencing where the trauma took place," she said. "So a lot of healing rituals such as art therapy, play therapy and other healing interventions need to take place both in the school and at home."

Dr. Kalayjian said adults need to come to grips with their own emotions.

"The number one thing is the reactions that they feel, the suffering, the sadness, the depression and the grieving, followed with anger towards the perpetrator. Uncertainty..why, what happened, went through his head."

She says there are steps everyone can take to find emotional comfort.

"Self-care, self-love, being in social, supporting, loving environments. And write your feelings, talk about it in family dinnertimes, for example. You have to remember: shared sorrow is half-sorrow, while shared joy is double joy."


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