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Thinking about Aurora: How to keep calm and carry on in a scary world

 
When I read about what happened in Aurora, Colo., last Friday morning, I was stunned. The man who walked through the side door of that movie theater and opened fire graduated from high school the same year I did. The people in the audience, the victims, were doing something I’d done the weekend before—just going to the movies. And now 12 people are dead, and dozens more are injured, many still in the hospital recovering, just because they went to the movies.

 

It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? Knowing that you can be going about your normal life one moment, and the next, everything can change with the fizz of an incendiary device or the pop of a gun. Life is dangerous. Whenever something like this happens, whether it’s a shooting or a plane crash or a devastating fire, we hear the statistics: You’re more likely to die in an automobile accident than in incident like this. You’re more likely to get hurt crossing the street than be caught in the crossfire. Still, we worry. Still, we’re paralyzed by fear.

 

That’s the thing about terrorism and tragedies: They shake you to your core. You don’t want to keep going about your life per usual because you can’t bear to imagine what could possibly happen next. The what-ifs overwhelm reality. You cry, you panic, you call every single person you love just to make sure they’re OK, just to make sure they know you love them. I know. I do it, too.

 

The thing is, we’re all in this together. Let’s get through this together. Here’s how I’m coping. Share your stories and tell us how you’re hangin’ in there in the comments.

 

Deep breath

In. Out. And again, until your heart rate slows, the tears recede and the panic stops clouding your mind.

 

Back away

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m confronted with something this horrifying, I go into research mode. I dig for facts until I know everything…and then the tragedy and how it happened is all I can think about. Knowing what happened is good. But when you know too much too soon, to the point that it overcomes every other thought in your mind, it’s time to step away from the Internet or the newspaper and gain some space.

 

Retreat to something you love

Sometimes preoccupation is a good thing. When tragedy strikes, sometimes it feels like you will never smile again, never laugh, never be happy—after all, why should you be when so many are devastated? Even if it doesn’t feel like you deserve it, know that you do, and do whatever you can to capture those feelings. Throw yourself into an activity that always lets you forget the bad things going on around you. And let yourself escape, just for a little while.

 

Be normal

Or maybe, as normal as you can be. For those whose lives were physically touched by this tragedy, past tragedies or tragedies to come, “normal” is shattered. But for those of us on the periphery, who can return to our routines, I think we owe it to ourselves to do that. Don’t act like nothing has happened. But be brave enough to enjoy life despite the what-ifs. Change the negatives, the things you did but never enjoyed. And embrace your ability to keep choosing to live life to its fullest.

 

Talk it out

Once you can think about what happened rationally, it might be time to say the things you’ve been thinking. Find a friend or counselor or family member to whom you can really talk, who won’t fly off the handle or be offended if you say something off-color, and just let it out. Talk about why you think it happened, what you think the consequences should be, what you would have done in that situation. And if no one is there when you need to talk at three o’clock in the morning, flip on the light, grab your journal and start writing.

 

Spread the love

Are you feeling alone? Yeah, I know the feeling. Take heart, hunnie—you’re not alone. Everyone around you is grieving in their own way, even if they don’t talk about it or show it. If you need support, ask for it. And if you have a hunch that someone else is hurting inside, lend them a shoulder. Kindness is the biggest gift you can give anyone, and when something like this happens, everyone needs it.

 

Tell me, babes: What did you think when you heard about the Aurora shooting? How are you handling it?

BY BRITTANY TAYLOR ON 7/23/2012 6:33:00 PM

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