What does grief look like and where can you go to get support?
This question prompted Christopher Hall, CEO of the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, to discuss the nature of grief in the aftermath of the horrific Las Vegas shooting. With sudden, shocking deaths, a range of unexpected emotions including anxiety, confusion and anger can arise.
“As we watch the news from Las Vegas unfold, it’s important to understand what grief looks like,” Hall says. “Grief isn’t just someone who is tearful. Grief can manifest in a range of emotions and responses. People get angry. Or anxious. Or scared.”
Responses to grief can also include unusual actions, Hall explains. “[People] also do things like write books, petition governments, create art, and post on social media. This kind of grief has a ripple effect through society, and we’re seeing this play out in both mainstream and social media at the moment.”
Hall is careful to point out that grief and trauma – both of which are being experienced as a result of the mass shooting – are two different things. “Unexpected deaths like this challenge our beliefs about our own safety and produce widespread feelings of anxiety. As grief and bereavement practitioners, we know that those who struggle the most are those who can’t make sense of the loss,” he says. “And there are a lot of people right now who are struggling to make sense of these events.”
Hall also adds that even if you weren’t directly associated with the event or people involved, it is still normal to experience grief. “It’s absolutely possible for people to feel real and authentic grief for people they don’t know. Grief connects to our own experiences of loss,” he states. “In situations like this, the public and private become intermingled. We see this sort of thing with the death of public figures, and it’s certainly present in situations like mass shootings.”
Frequently today social media platforms are used as outlets for grief. Fostering virtual communities of support, social media enables people to share their feelings. It also provides information which can help – or sometimes worsen – the grieving process. Grief doesn’t end when the event that caused it stops being reported on, Hall notes. People will grieve for a long time after the Vegas shootings disappear from the media, so it’s important to acknowledge your feelings and seek help as needed.
Visit the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement for grief and bereavement services and resources.