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Moving on from tragedy: how to cope

Nicole Schaffer
Features Writer

In a world where reports of violence seem to have made up the majority of news in recent weeks, feelings of sadness and depression can easily set in. The numerous bouts of terrorism inflicted on the United States and the recent deaths of two Millersville University students leave us asking when violence, destruction and death will end.
As a generation that has withstood the terror of 9/11, it may be assumed that these tragedies do not bear a great impact on us. However, upon closer inspection it is evident that these events can take a toll on an individual’s emotional health.
Director of the Counseling Center at Millersville Dr. Kelsey Backels says possessing feelings of shock and fear are a natural response when hearing news such as that of the tragedy of the Boston Marathon on April 15.
There are many physical and emotional responses to tragedy. Physical ailments such as experiencing tightness in your throat, heaviness in your chest, a loss of appetite or difficulty sleeping are all normal responses. Some emotional feelings such as restlessness, having a lack of concentration, crying frequently or at unexpected times or feeling as though no one understands you are all natural reactions as well.
Although these kinds of feelings are all components of the grieving process, they should not become a permanent aspect of your life. Dr. Backels says that there are several coping methods that can help end this grief. The first way an individual can help themselves is to stop watching TV or reading the social media that surrounds the event.
“Experts say that the more you see coverage of a tragedy, the worse the effect. It’s natural to want to check in, but too often we become immersed in it. What we need to do is unplug,” she said.

The stages of grief are shown in the modified Kubler-Ross model, which demonstrates the journey from the first shock of the trauma to the eventual acceptance.
The stages of grief are shown in the modified Kubler-Ross model, which demonstrates the journey from the first shock of the trauma to the eventual acceptance.

While this may be easier said than done, your mind will be able to find peace much sooner if you are able to step away from obsessing over the news coverage of an event.
Another way you can help yourself is by seeking comfort from others. Dr. Backels recommends reaching out to friends, family, a member of your church or even a professor you trust for a shoulder to cry on. By talking and discussing how you feel with a friend, you are able to receive a different outlook on your situation and can therefore gain the closure you need to heal.
A final way to get past your feelings of unease is to slow down and be kind to yourself. Experiencing pain takes a lot of emotional energy, which is why it is important for you to step back and realize that you have just experienced a trauma and may need extra time and care to return back to normal. A last piece of advice Dr. Backels offers when dealing with tragedy is to remember the phrase “this too shall pass.”
“As time goes by, you will develop a perspective on it and it will become easier. Although it will always be a part of you, it does not have to be your center. You have to remember it as an experience you had and move on from it,” said Dr. Backels.
While waiting for time to elapse may be one of the longest and cruelest healing mechanisms, it certainly helps an individual move past an experience.
If you are dealing with an issue and wish to speak with a professional, consider going to The Center for Counseling and Human Development located on the third floor of Lyle Hall. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday with extended hours on Wednesdays until 6 p.m.
There are six different counselors who work at the center and appointments can be made by calling their number at (717) 872-3122. For more information on coping, their website is a great resource and offers many helpful articles including ways to deal with the Boston Marathon tragedy.
If you are looking for a way to manage all the stresses in your life, consider attending the Mindfulness Stress Reduction Group which meets every Wednesday until May 1 from 5 to 6 p.m. on the first floor of Lyle Hall.
When dealing with a tragedy, remember that you are not alone in it and that there are many people who can help you make it through.

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