I have typed words and then deleted them for hours. Staring at this computer screen speechless. Wordless. Blank.
Usually the words flow out of me like a firehose. My spark gets ignited and I am off and running. But not this time. This time is different.
This time I am utterly speechless. The horror that I witnessed this past weekend was just too much to bare. How could someone take the lives of at least 49 innocent people?
When I heard the news about the mass shooting in Orlando this past weekend, I did the only thing I could manage to do. I got in my car and drove up to Orlando to be where I could be of most use.
I am a therapist specializing in working with people who have endured trauma. I am passionate about helping those who are traumatized, grieving or suffering, to heal. I am trained in EMDR and have a tendency to respond very well to crisis. I have studied for years so that I could respond to this.
And so I drove three hours north to Orlando. I drove to where the families of the victims would be provided support and I offered my assistance in every way I could. I have worked with many clients who had received devastating news. I had counseled them through grief. Helped them process trauma. Crisis management has always come naturally to me. But this time was different.
This time it was just too much. Too many families broken. Too many people devastated. All at once. Like a dark rain cloud ready to burst. And then floods. Floods of water in an almost endless way. Floods of people walking through the doors after having to identify their loved one's body. The energy in the room was almost too much to bare. But I felt in my gut that I needed to do anything I could.
As a therapist I often have a hope and desire to fix things. To help people change. To help them to feel better. And a lot of the time this is a very achievable goal, assuming that my clients are working hard on their end and motivated for change.
But this is not so with grief. With grief it is different. It is a pain that needs to be felt to relieve. There is no answer. No making sense of it. It takes time. And even over time, things will never be the same. In all of my years of training they could not prepare anyone for this. This is a lesson that one can learn only by experience.
And so I did the only thing I could do to help in the healing process, I held the space. I tolerated the pain so that the grieving families could begin to as well. I sat with them in their space. Not trying to fix anything. No judgement. Just support. Realizing on a massive scale what a previous supervisor when I worked at the VA had tried to teach me about work with trauma and grief. She taught me that therapy is not about fixing people. It is about helping them to feel their feelings and work through them. The role of a therapist is to provide a safe space for this process to happen. And for each person the process and timeline are unique.
So as this tragedy continues to unfold and the families begin to put one foot in front of the other, do your best to offer support. Letting them know that you know there is nothing you could say to take the pain away is really the only thing that you can say. But for so many, this in itself is healing. So don't be afraid to sit in it with them. They need to know that they are not alone.