Living and surviving these COVID-19 times was already tough when the news of the PIA plane crash hit our screens. Our emotions were on the surface, we were overwhelmed and this news affected us all greatly.
Time and again we have been advised by professionals, family and friends to stay positive, focus on the silver lining and so on. This, admittedly is easier said than done. As humans, we are innately programmed to focus on the negative — an ability necessary for survival, hence we look at danger and threat more than the positives in life.
Need to inculcate positive emotions and optimism within us
First step in this direction is to accept our thoughts and feelings. Allow ourselves to experience these depressing emotions. Remind ourself that it is normal to experience grief, anger and a multitude of other feelings even if the ‘tragedy’ did not directly impact us. We shouldn’t fight with ourselves, but rather allow ourselves to feel the emotions. It is sometimes worthwhile to process natural feelings of emotion that make us humans.
We should look for the facts and limit exposure to excessive news (about the PIA plane crash) that may be untrue. Seek out trusted news sources and avoid sensationalized news reports, also if possible turn off images of the tragedy be it on social media or TV.
Engage in talk about your thoughts and feelings. Seek out trusted individuals and vent, talk about your emotions. This trusted individual could be your family, friends or even a counsellor – the aim is to create a safe space where you can let out your emotions without fear, judgements or inhibitions.
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Another method of releasing your feelings is to write about it if you feel you cannot talk about it, pick up a pen and paper and write, write and write. Again, this is your space, no judgements no fear, say all you want and don’t hold back.
You can also take action to help the affected people. Think of how you can be useful for the victims? Explore your altruistic side. No matter how small a step you might take, your behaviour will help the affected individuals and it can help you too. It can provide a sense of meaning and purpose, much needed in the face of tragedy.
Take care and be kind to yourself
I will emphasize on self-care. This is very important. Do not ignore yourself in the process. You always need some ‘me’ time. Be mindful of your eating and sleeping habits, your exercise routine and try to spend some time engaging in activities you enjoy – watch funny movies, get a massage, read a book, or anything that lifts your spirits. Do something for yourself!
We must be very understanding and patient with children. Remember, children respond differently than adults to trauma and stress – they may act out or become withdrawn or even complain of physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach issues, and so on. Children often find it difficult to word their feelings and thus complain of somatic issues. Like you accept your feelings, do the same for children.
Educating children to help them cope with a national tragedy
Additionally, we as the adults have to be the ones to educate them. If your child is old enough they will ask you numerous questions. Again, exercise your patience and try to answer these questions as best as you can. If they aren’t asking questions, make the effort to talk to your child – present them with facts in easy language, explain to them what is happening and why mom and dad are sad, angry, etc.
Moreover, it is important to limit their exposure to images of the tragedy and share limited and truthful information with them. Your child may hear about this tragedy from others’ or from the news so be honest with them and do not keep them in the dark. Also, if needed talk to them about (age-appropriate) safety measures.
Reassure your child – engage in physical and emotional contact with them, spend more time with them and keep in touch. Encourage your child to engage in activities they enjoy and if possible be a part of those activities as well. Do not forget to follow-up with your child. Talk about their feelings and emotions after a gap to judge how they are coping. If you feel that at some point you cannot understand or help your child, seek professional help. Prioritize your child’s mental health.
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I will reiterate if you feel overwhelmed, cannot gauge your emotions or do not know how to cope, seek professional help. Take care of yourself and be kind to yourself. Do not judge yourself harshly. Give yourself time to accept, experience, feel and let go of the feelings. Even in times of tragedy, practice gratitude. It is tough to be positive, but not impossible and definitely beneficial for oneself.
Falak Zehra Mohsin is Founder & Counselor at Holistic Minds. She is a visiting faculty member at IBA, Karachi. She tweets @Falak_Z_M. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.