Jill Boultinghouse, MFT Therapist and Counselor

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Vegas Massacre- Route 91 Harvest Festival

This blog is inspired by the many clients and friends I have spoken to since the Vegas Massacre.

As we now know, 58 lives were lost. I have to stop there. Think about those 58 people. Now think about those 58’s friends and family? Imagine the pain, the loss, the true suffering. 546 were injured. Now think of them. Their suffering is unimaginable to most of us. Now try to imagine how many are emotionally injured. How many thousands and thousands of lives will now be forever changed? This is for anybody who has been traumatized by the Vegas Massacre and their loved ones.

The trauma of having attended the Route 91 Harvest Festival this past October 1, 2017 for many is still an unknown. But know this. If you or your loved one is struggling, it is not because you want to stay hurt. No, I know all of you want to heal and get better. I had a woman in my office this past week and again I heard the pressure she is feeling from friends and family to “get back to normal”. I saw the pressure she put on herself too and maybe even more importantly. How many times have we seen on social media “break the stigma” posts? If you have ever posted or like a post about breaking the stigma, please know that if you are pressuring someone (or yourself) to get back to normal, then you are stigmatizing trauma. It is less than three weeks since the massacre. Sorry, but the victims will not be rushed through their pain and trauma and get back to normal on your time. They can not even do it on their own time. Many will take months and some may take years. Its okay. They want to heal and they will, but not on your timing. Would you expect a well trained soldier to get back from a deployment in which he faced combat to get over it in a matter of weeks? Why then would you ask untrained civilians who were attacked to get over it in weeks. Be patient with yourself, your friends, your family and your co-workers who were attacked at Route 91.

Flashbacks are often part of the trauma of being victimized by violence. Anyone experiencing a flashback should not be feared or seen as strange. Just as someone having a seizure should not be feared or seen as a freak. The brain short circuits if I can just say this simply. And it does often for very good reasons. I recently passed out for the first time in my life. It was fascinating, but also a little embarrassing and disturbing. And this happened to me in my doctors office- a completely safe environment. Imagine losing awareness in public or around a group of people. The person would, of course, feel a little embarrassed. If we witness this, it is our job to let the person with the flashback, seizure or even the person who passed out to know that it is okay, it is not a big deal and we are there to help and support them- not judge them or be afraid of them. If you are with someone who was at Route 91 who has a flashback this is your opportunity to be the hero. Just as we hear stories of people who so courageously put their own feelings aside to help others at Route 91, you can put your feelings aside and be there for them now. Be the hero, be their friend. I truly believe it is all of our duties to help our community heal by supporting the victims of Route 91. Just as I believe it is our duty to help our soldiers and marines who have served our country. We must take care of each other. And if you are having flashbacks, please know that it is normal. Try to fight judging yourself or being embarrassed. When you put that pressure on yourself, you make your trauma worse for yourself. You often exacerbate the original trauma and feel re traumatized.

The victims are strong. I can not say this enough or with enough power. If you think a survivor of the Vegas Massacre is weak, then take a second look. Anyone who survived that night is strong. They are normal everyday people who were exposed to an abnormal event. Their bodies and minds under extreme stress kicked into survival mode known as “fight or flight”. The chemistries in their minds and bodies changed. It takes time for their bodies and minds to know that they are no longer under attack and can leave that stressful reaction that kicked in that night. They are most likely having trouble sleeping, being easily triggered to memories and feelings from the attack, they are feeling sad and alone at times possibly. They have not only survived the attack, but they are surviving the hard road “back to normal”. They are surviving existential realities. They are surviving shifts in body and mind chemistries. They are also putting up with us who were not there that night and really can not fully understand. But for them, for those we love and care about, let’s keep trying to understand and not judge. Let’s be patient. Lets show them real support. If you are the victim, please know that I know you are strong. You have not stopped being the strong person you were. You would not be here reading this blog if you were not strong. You are reading this because you are fighting your emotional fight back to normal and I respect, admire and celebrate you.

 

 

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