Coping with Senseless Tragedies

A university campus is a place for learning, discovery, and innovation. Tragically, a mass shooting on February 13th at the Michigan State University campus left four dead, at least five others wounded, and an emotionally traumatized community. Our hearts hurt for all.

How do we cope with such chaos, devastation, and destruction? There's a feeling of being totally overwhelmed, hopeless, and helpless that may leave you struggling to get a handle on how to re-gain a sense of control and predictability.

In her book, Shattered Assumptions, Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, Ph.D., points out that traumatic events invoke the feeling of being threatened. Trauma can produce feelings of anxiety, fear, depression, nightmares, nausea, memory loss, flashbacks, fatigue, and problem-solving difficulties. While these are normal responses to stressful situations, it’s important to learn how to cope and heal from these events.

If you or a colleague are having difficulty coping, here are some things you can do:

  • Listen to others and validate the feelings that you have.
  • Focus on the things you have control over.
  • Reflect on the fact that, at this moment, you are safe.
  • Prioritize your own self-care.
  • Seek support from friends, colleagues, or a professional if your distress begins interfering with your function, your work, or your relationships.

For psychological support, Vanderbilt University Medical Center faculty and staff can call Work/Life Connections-EAP at 615-936-1327 and make a confidential appointment to meet with one of our counselors.