Finding Solace in the Wake of Tragedy: Taking Care of Ourselves and Building Community
These are days of great turmoil in the United States and the world. Tragedy and trauma, even those external to UW Bothell, can affect our entire campus community. In the face of overwhelming suffering and injustice, Student Engagement and Activities has compiled the resources below to help us understand our pain, our anger, our grief – and to help foster transformation and healing. At times like this, our shared humanity is our only comfort. With love, we work for a collective liberation that sees the wellness of us all bound up with each other – across boundaries, religions, races, sexual orientations, and genders. Practicing self-care, caring for others, and coming together to fight for justice are the first steps needed in repairing this broken world.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
- Maya Angelou
UW Bothell Campus Resources
Our campus is fortunate to have many resources, and we encourage you to reach out for support.
- Counseling Center: 425-352-3183, UW1-080 (M-F 8:30am-5pm)
- CARE Team, confidential resource for the entire campus community when there are concerns about a student’s well-being.
- UW Violence Prevention and Response (SafeCampus), Safety Escort Program, safety advice and resources, and links to University policies and violence reporting requirements to help maintain a safe campus: 425-352-SAFE (7233)
- Security and Campus Safety, enhances safety through the visibility of our security personnel, preventative patrols, 24/7 accessibility, positive conflict resolution, crime prevention and awareness forums: 425-352-5359, LB2 005 (24/7)
- Student Conduct Office, protects the rights and freedoms of all members of UWB through its committment to maintaining the highest level of academic integrity and behavioral conduct: 425-352-3346, UW1-080 (M-F 8:30am-5pm)
- UW Alert, provides current information on campus closures and delays due to inclement weather and emergency situations. During an incident, campus information will be posted here. Faculty and staff must "opt-in" to this service -- you won't receive messages if you haven't signed up.
These supportive and emergency resources are all free, confidential, and available 24/7 unless otherwise noted.
"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." -Audre Lorde
There is no "right" way to respond to loss and suffering: each person copes differently. Different reactions can occur based on personal experiences and make up, and people’s emotional state prior to the event. Since trauma reactions are normal reactions to extremely abnormal stressful situations, try to treat yourself with compassion and accept whatever arises for you and others. Responses can vary from day to day or minute to minute. These can include:
- Denial, shock, numbness, detachment
- Feeling vulnerable, unsafe
- Anxiety, panic, worry
- Irritability, restlessness, anger, rage
- Hyperactivity or overexcitability
- Being hyper-alert or vigilant, exaggerated startle response
- Re-experiencing of the traumatic event, disturbing images
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances
- Helplessness, hopelessness
- Sadness, moodiness, crying, despair
- Difficulty concentrating
- Confusion, forgetfulness, or memory impairment
- Fatigue or feeling slowed down
- Withdrawal, isolation
- Remembering other life traumas
- “Survivor guilt” or feelings of self-blame that you escaped the tragedy
- Avoidance of activities or places that remind you of traumatic event
- Strong need to talk about the event, read accounts about the event
- Use of alcohol or other substances to cope with disturbing feelings
- It is also not unusual to have no reaction at all – or to feel motivated in the face of tragedy to take positive action.
There are a number of useful strategies for exposure to trauma, overwhelm, anxiety, and grief. Give yourself permission to do whatever you need in order to take care of yourself. You may want to limit your media and social media exposure following the tragedy, especially if you are having difficulty coping. Talking about your feelings with people you trust can also help, and spending time with friends, family, and community can help you feel less alone. While it’s beneficial for some to process feelings on their own, try to seek support if you find yourself withdrawing from others as a stress response. Be on the lookout too for any changes in your daily behaviors – such as sleep, diet, exercise, and substance use – as these may be an indicator of needing outside help. After experiencing trauma, the first step is to regain a sense of safety and stability. Only then can you work to process your experiences by putting words to the event.
When to Consider Counseling
UW Bothell is committed to our students’ intellectual, social, emotional, and physical well-being. Our staff of licensed mental health counselors is trained to help students when they feel they need additional support. Students seek help for problems including but not limited to: stress, anxiety, depression, adjustment difficulties, concentration difficulties, grief and loss, relationship problems, domestic violence, sleeping difficulties, family of origin issues, veterans' issues, low self-esteem, sexual assault, academic problems, parenting concerns, substance abuse, or any other concern causing distress or interfering with academic progress.
When a national or world tragedy occurs, the Counseling Center is available to help students effectively deal with the aftermath. At any time during this process, you may find it useful to seek out a counselor or mental health professional. There are some cases when you should definitely get professional support:
- If you find yourself feeling suicidal or contemplating suicide.
- If you find that your daily functioning continues to be impaired so that you cannot carry out your life tasks.
Students may schedule an initial intake appointment by calling the Counseling Center at 425-352-3183 or stopping by UWI-080 and speaking to the receptionist. If you find yourself needing support after hours, please call the crisis lines listed above.
Helping Others and Building Community
At some point, every person will be called upon to help care for a suffering friend or loved one – sometimes while they’re suffering themselves. Being able to provide support for one another – and to try to find solutions for the root causes of our suffering – can be a key component of healing. For those who are in the midst of healing themselves, don’t neglect your own needs and only take on what’s life-giving to you. Remember the instructions shared before every airplane flight: “In the event of an emergency, please put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.”
Here are some ways to support others:
- Listen. Simply acknowledging feelings is important. Allow room for people to have their feelings, even as you try to reassure them.
- Allow for the expression of emotions. Provide a safe and quiet environment to discuss feelings and thoughts.
- Encourage others to give themselves time to heal, to mourn the losses and to be patient with changes in their emotional state.
- Help others communicate their experience in ways that feel comfortable to them - such as by talking with family or close friends, or keeping a diary.
- Be accepting of your own feelings and reactions, as well as those of others.
- If possible, offer to help with everyday tasks, such as running errands, sharing a meal, picking up mail, caring for a pet, etc.
- Follow-up. Arrange to meet or call the person again. This demonstrates concern and understanding for their emotional pain.
- To be helpful to others, you need to take care of yourself. Make time for yourself and try to maintain a balance between being supportive to others and yourself.
- Remember healing from a loss takes time and cannot be "fixed with a quick remedy." Sometimes your intervention will not be able to make someone feel better right away. Be prepared for this and don't take it as a comment on your helping skills.*
Reconnecting with others can also help restore emotional well-being and a sense of control following a traumatic experience. By processing our experiences with others, and coming together to fight for justice, we forge a new sense of self and a new future. Community is essential in the aftermath of a tragedy. By channeling our individual experiences into creating systemic change we bind our liberation with others. Here are some ways we can come together to foster collective healing and justice:
- Create safe space where you and your peers can gather together to heal.
- Organize informal group activities (e.g., a brown-bag lunch, study group). Such activities can provide a forum for support, or just be a fun distraction from pain.
- Help people connect with supportive resources on campus and in the community.
- Organize and attend campus forums on the meaning of the tragedy in our world, country, and community.
- For allies: come together to learn more about the history of this violence so you are not leaning on those most affected to educate you. Actively listen to those who are expressing their pain. Interrupt harmful behaviors and communications. Show solidarity with the targeted group by attending vigils, rallies, and speak-outs.
- Organize and participate in fundraising and blood drives to support relief efforts.
- Channel your grief and rage through creative pursuits. Social movements are fueled, in part, by artists and creators who choose to rise up together through their creativity.
- Connect with larger efforts being undertaken by the community to undo injustice, institute equitable policies, and address root causes.
Transformation, equity, and healing are the cornerstones of a just and good society. Student Engagement and Activities is committed to building a campus community that upholds these values, while working to change the systems that have kept violent structures in place. We encourage all students to join us in honoring connection, justice, and love instead of hate and despair. In addition to all the resources listed here you can also always connect with us through Facebook and Instagram, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit us in the Activities and Recreation Center.
- American Civil Liberties Union, “Fighting Police Abuse: A Community Action Manual”
- Cohen, Justin C., “Advice for White Folks in the Wake of the Police Murder of a Black Person,” July 6, 2016.
- Finley, Taryn, “5 Digital Self-Care Tips for Black People During Tragedy,” Huffington Post, July 7, 2016.
- Giorgis, Hannah and Tomi Obaro, "17 Poems by Black Writers to Read When You Feel Hopeless," Buzzfeed, July 7, 2016.
- Healing Poetry
- Lorde, Audre, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” from Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984.
- Maza, Carlos “How to Talk to a Queer Person who is Afraid of Dying,” The Washington Post, June 14, 2016.
- NPR, “After Tragedy, Nonbelievers Find Other Ways To Cope,” January 16, 2013.
- Pérez, Miriam Zoila, “4 Self-Care Resources for Days When the World is Terrible,” Colorlines, Jul 7, 2016.
- Chödrön, Pema. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult times. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 1997.
- Crass, Chris, Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy. Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2013.
- Gandy, Debrena J. Sacred Pampering Principles: An African-American Woman's Guide to Self-care and Inner Renewal. New York, NY: William Morrow Paperbacks, 1998.
- Germer, Christopher. The Mindful Path to Self Compassion. New York, NY: Guilford Press, 2009.
- Greenspan, Miriam. Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2004.
- Herman, Judith Lewis. Trauma and Recovery. New York, NY: BasicBooks, 1997
- Kabat Zinn, Jon. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2013.
- Lipsky, Laura van Dernoot. Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009.
- Neff, Kristin. Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind. New York, NY: William Morrow, 2011.
- Rothschild, Babette. 8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery: Take-charge Strategies to Empower Your Healing. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2010.
*Adapted from Dartmouth College’s “Response to Tragedy”