Our community and our world are experiencing a number of feelings as a result of recent events and the memory of historical racial tension. What is happening emotionally and how do we cope? This guide explains the trigger, the trauma and the stages of grief from a psychological perspective.
1. What is a "Trigger" in psychology? Triggers are stimuli such as people, places, sounds, smells, etc., that cause us to recall or even relive a traumatic experience.
The murder of George Floyd in addition to other evidence of injustice have triggered a trauma response all over the world. Now we are continually triggered by the news, social media, and opposing perspectives.These triggers take us right back to the trauma.
2. What is "Trauma"? Trauma, from a psychological perspective, is damage to the mind that occurs as a result of distressing events or experiences.
If you look at symptoms of posttraumatic stress and acute stress, both yield symptoms that potentially restrict your ability to cope with daily living as you normally would as well as create an overwhelming level of emotional responses. Specific symptoms are isolation, hypervigilance explained by extreme panic partnered with paranoia, depression, sadness, recurrent nightmares, sleep disturbances, flashbacks, headaches, chest and stomach pain and anxiety. Globally, we have been affected by witnessing and experiencing trauma which evokes feelings of grief.
3. What is "Grief"? Grief is defined as deep sorrow often caused by death.
I often share that feelings of grief are not only associated with a loss by death but with other losses such as lifestyle, relationships and sentimental belongings. With the present experience of racial trauma, many are grieving due to feeling unheard, unappreciated, confused and dehumanized. The stages of grief are shock or disbelief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, guilt, and acceptance or hope. As it relates to an individual, these stages are not experienced in any certain order. The nature of the grieving process is as unique as the person who is grieving. This is why we are seeing some who are angry, others who are still in shock and then those who are standing up, standing together with hope and being a light within their communities.
Our world is grieving! So how do we cope? How do we decrease stress during this time?
*Pray for our nation.
*Talk with a counselor or therapist.
*Avoid triggers by limiting your time on social media and the news.
*Develop healthy self-care practices.
*Social distance but continue to connect regularly with your support system.
*Search for ways to advocate and support a good cause.
*Educate yourself on cultural diversity.
*Show compassion and love.
Angela Jackson, MA, mental health professional; The Jackson Impact: A Mental Health Movement - Interrupting the Stigma on Mental Health.