When our editor asked me to write something for this week’s paper on the tragedy in Orlando, I was immediately struck by the anxiety of trying to decide the absolute right things to say. Like so many others, I felt compelled to express my immense feelings of grief and sadness but, because my hope is to offer valuable information, I quickly moved beyond that idea to a whole slew of topics, all of which were seemingly equal in value to the next one. I asked myself, What are the perfect words to say in the aftermath of the untimely deaths of 49, mostly young, LGBT people?
Eventually, I realized that there are no perfect words. What has happened can’t be mended by a series of words on paper, and certainly it can’t take away the pain that we all are feeling. Instead, my meager hope is simply that these words will encourage all of us to take care of ourselves during this very difficult time.
As you well know, Orlando is 1,000 miles away, and yet this story has hit closer to home than potentially any other piece of news we’ve ever heard. I have never seen so many of my peers, friends and loved ones simultaneously so distraught and, while this may seem counterintuitive to many, this active state of sadness that so many of us are in is a positive thing. In fact, it is essential that we react to the gravity of this situation by way of feeling our emotions to the fullest extent. In crying, in seeking solace with loved ones, in joining together as a community to mourn, we are engaging in the healing process. If you haven’t cried yet, ask yourself why. What’s stopping you from shedding the tears that are all too appropriate during this time?
Another important component of healing that I’d like to bring attention to as the days drag on since the attacks on sacred space is knowing when to unplug. TV, news and social media are all focusing on Orlando and if we stay engaged enough, we can quite literally spend the majority of our day hearing, reading and writing about the victims, the shooter and the aftermath. Like the car accident on the side of the highway that we can’t help but slow down to look at, it is very human to feel compelled to keep watching. However, I’m going to incite you to STOP. Please stop.
It is crucial, as we continue on in our healing as individuals and as a community, that we set limits on how much time we are spending actively engaging with this tragedy. If this means you have to delete Facebook off of your cell phone for a week or two, delete it. If you have to set a specific time limit on how much news you can watch each day, set the limit and try to stick with it. There is a fine line between giving a situation like this the attention that it deserves and fixating on it in a way that is harmful to ourselves.
What happened on the morning of June 12 at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla., will forever be a part of our LGBT history. The 49 innocent people who don’t get to kiss their partners anymore, who won’t be on the dance floor even one more night, will always be a part of our collective story and a grave reminder that we must remain visible and that maintaining LGBT communities around the country and the world is absolutely essential. This will always be a part of the fabric of who we are. So please, as we are barely a week into accepting this as an unwanted part of our history, take care of yourself and nurture the life that you are lucky enough to still be living.
Kristina Furia is a psychotherapist specializing in issues and concerns of the LGBTQ community in addition to depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other mental illnesses. Her private practice, Philadelphia LGBTQ Counseling, offers both individual and couples sessions (www.lgbtphillytherapy.com).
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