What happened in Las Vegas this week has thrown many of us off our axis. We are now being given a new normal to contend with. Life in America is changed yet again.
Shock/Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, Resolution. These are the stages of grief and we all experience them in our own way, at our own pace.
Primary victim, secondary victim. witness, first responders, vicarious witness, human being. We are all effected by violence and national tragedy, albeit, at different levels.
This has been a life altering event for over 558 people and their families. Our condolences and prayers seem ineffectual. We send them anyway. We don't know how to make it better. And, we secretly hope to never feel what they are feeling.
For the rest of us who were not primary victims, like 9-11, we also experience life altering affects, in that, even in denial, we know it could happen anywhere, to any of us, at any time, if things don't change.
Shock, denial, bargaining: We can't believe it happened. We are numb. We don't want to talk about it. We don't want to accept that it could have been us. We want to know why. If we know why, then maybe we can deflect our potential as a victim. "I don't go to Las Vegas." "I don't like country music." "I am not gay." "I don't work at a post office." "I am a good person." We are, in effect, bargaining for our future safety. If I am or I am not ___________ I will not be a victim. But, this doesn't work. We go to school, we go to work, we go to the movies, we go to worship, we go to clubs, we go to outdoor concerts. We go to ball games, and parks, and picnics. Our defenses don't work. And so we feel. We feel anger and we feel despair. Others don't like our feelings, these feelings, and they try to tell us not to feel. "Get over it!" "Shut up!" "I don't want to hear about it." This is how they cope. They cannot understand me because they are not me.
Don't let anyone tell you how to feel. When the shock and denial wears off, allow the anger and allow the depression. Find like minded people who want to hear what you have to say. Don't bother with others who aren't ready. And eventually get to resolution.
And when you are ready to be there, resolve to do what you can to change the world. Peaceful protest, educate, challenge, speak out, raise money, give blood, influence law and policy.
We can do things to move beyond despair. We can do things to constructively use our anger. We can leave Las Vegas, not to forget, but as our history and as our impetus to make this world a little bit better. The victims deserve that.
Note: The Author recognizes that Elizabeth Kubler Ross presented her stages in a slightly different order. However, as Kubler Ross acknwledged and the author has expereinced, the stages are no always rigidly linear and there is much overlap.