When tragic events occur it can trigger intense stress, sadness and feelings of anxiety. Tragedy and anxiety are closely connected because tragic events can lead to both a temporary increase in anxiety and in some cases permanent issues with an anxiety disorder. When young children experience a tragedy early on in their life then it can cause problems with anxiety for them well into adulthood if they don’t have the right kind of support and guidance to recover.
As adults we experience different levels of tragedy, from national events like natural disasters and mass shootings to events that occur on a more personal level such as the death of a loved one. Tragedy is a part of life and whatever type of tragedy we are faced with it is important to manage symptoms of anxiety and find healthy ways to process your feelings about it. Sometimes getting professional help is the best option in order to cope with a tragedy and be able to move on without it interfering with your life.
Helping Children with Anxiety After a Tragedy
When children see or experience a tragedy it can have a tremendous impact on them because they are more vulnerable. Children are sensitive and can feel the tension and anxiety in the adults around them. They may be too young to put the event in perspective and may experience feelings of helplessness and a lack of control.
Talking to children about their feelings can give them an outlet so that they can sort through the thoughts that they have following a tragedy. They may have interpreted the tragedy as a personal danger to themselves and the people they care about so it is important to discuss with them and learn about their perspective. Every child responds differently to certain events so it is important to find out what is going on in their mind so that you can deal with their particular issues.
After a tragic event, children need lots of comforting and reassurance in order to feel safe and it is important that parents provide that whenever possible. Parents shouldn’t avoid talking about the tragedy but should instead be honest and open about it so that the topic doesn’t become taboo and kids can talk about their feelings. Children can learn to express their feelings in different ways such as talking, drawing, or playing.
Very young children may exhibit signs of anxiety after a tragedy such as wetting the bed, thumb-sucking, or fear of sleeping alone. After national tragedies such as shootings or natural disasters it may be a good idea to monitor their media viewing if it is causing them stress to see the images on the news. You can schedule an activity during news shows such as reading or drawing so your child won’t be affected if you want to watch it.
Coping with Tragedy as an Adult
Children that struggled with tragedies and never learn the right coping skills may continue to deal with anxiety when they get older. Adults may also have trouble handling tragedies and feel just as overwhelmed and confused by a tragic event. People with existing symptoms of anxiety may find it hard to handle negative events on the news as it may affect their sense of safety.
Seeing violent events unfold on the media can cause people to feel nervous and have trouble sleeping or concentrating because they worry that it could happen to them. One way for adults to cope with tragedy is to consider how rare these events actually are and that few people actually experience a violent incident. Another way to frame these types of incidents is to understand that people who commit violent crimes are often experiencing their own darkness and painful problems that drive them hurt others.
The important thing to remember is that even though it may seem like these tragic events happen all the time they are actually few and far between. You can continue about your daily routine and be completely safe knowing that violence is extremely rare. Sometimes the best solution is to go about your daily routine in order to realize that life goes on as normal even after a tragedy.
If your anxiety doesn’t seem to subside then you might consider talking to a professional counselor about your feelings. You can try one on one therapy to discuss what you are experiencing or attend support groups if you feel you need to connect with someone and share stories. There are many resources available for people who have had their own experience with tragedy and need to recover from the event.
Any tragic experience can cause grief, sadness and anxiety because these are normal human responses. If these feelings begin to interfere with your life or you are having trouble moving on, seek help from a therapist.