I am an alumnus of Stoneman Douglas High School and am highly trained in the field of trauma and PTSD. As we approach the 1 year anniversary of this inconceivable event, I want to share as much information as I can to help a community that I am deeply connected to prepare emotionally over the next several weeks. I’ve compiled the most frequently asked topics from parents and teenagers I’ve worked with to create this four part Trauma Series. I hope this information is helpful as we enter this next phase of recovery. To read the whole series, check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
It’s been an interesting experience watching the hustle and bustle of the community prepare for this one year anniversary. It is absolutely surreal just typing that out. Valentine’s Day seems to be an afterthought as all preparations have been focused on the healing of the community. Group events are being planned, beautiful memorials are being created and acts to celebrate the lives of those lost but not forgotten have been performed. Those who do not find comfort in service have opted to leave town for the week and try to physically remove themselves. As we’ve been discussing over the past few weeks, everyone experiences trauma in different ways and at different paces. However you choose to cope with this anniversary is OK as long as it’s helping the healing process.
What to expect
- Symptoms of Anxiety and depression may increase
- Sleep disturbances may return or get worse
- Concentration may be affected
- Intrusive memories and thoughts may increase
- Be prepared for triggers (helicopters for example in the Parkland community)
- Expect people removed from the trauma to say (unintentionally) inappropriate or insensitive things
You may also feel some unexpected positive feelings to emerge on an anniversary day. Some people take this time to honor individuals who have passed or to reflect on the journey and acknowledge the growth and change that has taken place since the trauma. Whatever you experience, be kind to yourself and embrace it for what it is.
The below graphic is used in many government and agency websites and literature to illustrate the progression of how a disaster affects a community. If you want to learn more about these phases click here for a short and sweet PDF that explains it more in depth.
Have a Plan
- Plan to stay with the people who support you most
- Plan a day trip
- Participate in service activities
- Attend a memorial
- Practice distraction techniques throughout the day
- Avoid the news
- Maintain routines as much as possible (think eating and sleeping times. Keep them as normal as possible)
- Take the day off of work or school. Use that time to do something you truly enjoy
- Meditate or pray
- Work on a project you’ve been delaying that will give you satisfaction when you are done
If you aren’t sure how you will feel throughout the day, make a couple of plans and be flexible. It’s ok to give yourself some grace and change your mind as the day goes on.
I hope you have found the information in this trauma series as therapeutic as it has been for me to write it. My support goes out to the families whose lives are forever changed and for a community whose resiliency continues to impress and amaze me.
Some people naturally recover from traumatic experiences but some people need help learning how to recover. If it’s been over a month and your symptoms have not improved or are getting worse, you can contact a mental health professional in your area to get an evaluation and learn some ways to cope with your symptoms. I offer in office sessions in Coral Springs Florida as well as Telehealth sessions throughout the State of Florida. You can contact my office to set up an appointment by filling out this form here.
If you are in immediate crisis and need to speak to someone right away, you can call the National Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or you can text HOME to 741741 to text (for free) with a trained crisis counselor.