Caring for yourself and loved ones after tragic events

Someone holding a hand comfortinglyWhen events like the recent shooting in Toronto unfold, it can leave us feeling helpless, confused, angry, or afraid. The impacts of a tragedy like this are felt for a long time, and it is difficult to understand why things like this happen, or what it means for the future.
In times like this, it is important for people to connect with each other, and support one another.

Here are some tips:

  • Events like this can cause feelings of uncertainty, frustration and anxiety – these feelings are expected.
  • Be patient with yourself and those close to you – it takes time to manage feelings.
  • Avoid isolation. Spend time with family and friends, offer your support. Hug one another and listen.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and get enough rest.
  • Encourage your child/children to talk about their feelings. Listen to them. Admit that you also are feeling sad, afraid, worried, but that you are there to work through it together.
  • Provide reassurance to your children that the family is safe. Repeat this as often as possible! Keep close to them and hold them. Touch provides extra reassurance that someone is there for them.
  • Provide children with age-appropriate but factual information about what happened.
  • Watch for signs of stress in your family, friends, and children. Get help from others if it is needed.
  • If you continue to feel overwhelmed, can’t shake the feelings of despair, or have anxiety, panic, depression, persistent bad dreams, seek help through your healthcare provider, family, or community organization. Asking for help is a sign of strength.
When a loved one is grieving it can be really hard to know what to say. Here are some tips for how you can talk to them:
  • Saying nothing, just be present with the person
  • I am so sorry
  • I heard that your_____ died (acknowledging the loss)
  • I wish I had the right words, just know I care
  • I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to support in any way I can
  • Tell me what I can do for you right now
  • I can’t imagine what you are going through
  • You will be in my thoughts
  • Instead of saying something, offer a hug or a cup of tea
  • We all need support at times like this, don’t be afraid to reach out
Sometimes, even though we have the best intentions we can say the wrong thing – here are some things to avoid saying to someone who is grieving:
  • It will be okay
  • They are in a better place
  • There is a reason for everything/All things happen for a reason
  • I know how you feel
  • It was their time
  • Be strong
  • Your loss is like my ... [insert story that you think relates]
  • Statements that begin with "You should" or "You will."
Learn more about Coping with Crisis, and tips for helping children during times of crisis.

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