Even if you didn't know someone hurt in the massacre in Orlando, just hearing about the horrible situation there can cause indirect, emotional stress. Medical professionals say secondary stress is normal after a crisis as big as the one that took place in Orlando.
"The nature of human beings is that when you see other people hurting you have a tendency to feel hurt too," the Rev. Glenna Tibbs tells ABC Action News. Tibbs is a certified mental health counselor and says the hurt we feel for others can create indirect emotional stress, and in extreme cases, what's called "secondary PTSD."
"What happens then is that, all of the sudden, we find ourselves feeling out of control, find ourselves looking over our back a lot. Because we don't feel safe in the world anymore," says Tibbs, who recently retired from seeing patients in the Ft. Myers community but now freelances for companies like Magellan Insurance Healthcare.
Common stages of emotion after a crisis, as provided by Magellan Healthcare:
- No two people have the same reaction experience after a trauma. Some don’t feel the full impact until months later.
- Initial emotions include shock, disbelief, and denial; people may temporarily feel numb and disconnected from life.
- The cascade of ensuing emotions can include fear, confusion, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, frustration and grief.
- In time, once emotions subside, people usually develop a sense of equilibrium based on the new post-trauma reality.
The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay says the first step to recovering from secondary stress is to acknowledge that we're feeling sadness and express those feelings with a friend or loved one. You should also try to get back to a comfortable routine. If negative feelings persist, you're encouraged to seek a help, like calling 2-1-1 or accessing the resources at the Crisis Center.
How to talk to children about tragedies like the one in Orlando, as provided by the Mayo Clinic:
The Mayo Clinic recommends starting this sensitive conversation by asking your kids about what they've already heard about the shooting. Give them age-appropriate information. Tell the truth, but leave out un-necessary details that may scare them. Encourage children to express their feelings and re-assure your child of his or her safety. Remind children that their safety is a parent's responsibility, and they do a good job of taking care of them.