July 20, 2013 marks the one-year anniversary of the Aurora Theater Tragedy. For many, it's a day of remembrance, filled with sadness and loss. For others, it's a day of hope and new beginnings. One couple who survived the shooting, Kirstin Davis and Eugene Han, are choosing to marry on the anniversary of the tragedy as a way of celebrating their commitment to each other.
Whichever way you chose to look at and process this tragedy, it’s still sad. Devastatingly sad. Sad because lives were lost, loved ones were killed, and those who once felt security and enjoyment from a night out at the movies in Aurora may never feel this way again. But those who survived it and continue to heal are hopeful. Hopeful and positive that they will keep moving forward. Because in order to recover from a trauma, you’ve got to move forward, which is often easier said than done.
Just exactly how a person moves forward and recovers from a trauma, whether it be physical, psychological, or both, can be extremely individualized. Some people develop Acute Stress Disorder or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, while others seem to move on, virtually unscathed by symptoms. As a psychologist, one of the major roadblocks I work on with people who’ve suffered a trauma is judgment. Negative judgments of self, like the “should have’s” and “if only’s,” as well as the negative judgments from others, such as “What’s wrong with you now?” and “Why don’t you just snap out of it?” Judgments don’t help the healing process and often create feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and apathy.
If you or a loved one has suffered a trauma, I challenge you to simply be aware of your judgments. Just notice when you’re having a judgment and try not to “judge your judging.” Then ask yourself, “What do I need right now? What would help me in this moment instead of judging?” If you notice your child or loved one is having judgments about him or herself, try to ask him or her the same questions. Remember that there is no “right” way to feel about a trauma… all emotions are valid and important.
Seeking professional support soon after a tragedy occurs can often help trauma symptoms from developing and persisting. And remember it’s never too late…