This article was originally published on Psychology Today on March 15, 2019.
How to care, prepare, and advocate well in the wake of this tragedy.
Last night, at least 49 people were killed and many more were injured in terrorist attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. I am heartbroken and grieving with the survivors, the community, and the nation impacted by this tragedy. In the wake of yet another mass shooting, I’m sharing a collection of resources for caring, preparing, and advocating as we seek to respond well.
In the immediate aftermath of an event, we want to help. But often we don’t know how, or fear of saying or doing the wrong thing prevents us from doing anything at all. The following resources offer tips for helping survivors of mass trauma, including what to say (and what not to say), how to offer practical presence, and how to help survivors make meaning of their suffering.
It’s easy to feel increasingly helpless as we process news of each new mass shooting. In this piece for Sojourners written after a shooting in a nearby community, I reflect on what matters most to those suffering in the wake of mass trauma, and what we can learn from the brave communities who have faithfully and thoughtfully walked through their own disasters as we grieve, lament, and stand in solidarity with survivors.
What survivors need most after a mass trauma is for others to help them know that they are not alone and that there are people in their life that they can turn to for help—being a friend is one of the best ways you can help. In this Psychology Today post, I share tips for providing social support and how to refer for additional support when necessary.
Meaning-making is a natural—and important—part of the healing process for survivors of trauma. Unfortunately, people of faith sometimes latch onto ideas about what the “blessing” of adversity looks like—ideas that are not just uninformed, but potentially hurtful to those facing hardships. In this piece for Religion News Service, I offer a framework for finding meaning in our suffering that helps us and others understand that the blessing of suffering isn’t growth—it’s being reminded that our lives have meaning and that we aren’t alone in our hurts.
When our friends and loved ones are impacted by violence and mass trauma it can leave us feeling helpless, cause us to “freeze” up, or say things we wouldn’t normally say. As a result, we often fall into the trap of relying on platitudes that aren’t helpful and can even be harmful for someone going through a trauma. In this Psychology Today post, I offer a few examples of what not to say as well as tips for what to say instead to survivors of mass trauma.
In this Christian Post interview, Rev. Steve Walker, a pastor from Roseburg, Oregon who played an important role in his community's recovery process after a mass shooting, shared with me insights about how the Christian community can best extend support to those who suffer in the wake of mass shootings.
As a disaster psychologist, I have found that people often struggle to help those closest to them. There are many reasons for this, but even if you feel as if you have nothing to offer, you do. In this article for the Washington Post, I offer a few practical ways to help those close to you.
School shootings have also become so commonplace that teens now live with the reality that this very well could happen in their community. Gun violence has a significant emotional and spiritual impact on teenagers, and in this piece for Princeton Theological Seminary’s Institute for Youth Ministry, I offer a few steps youth workers can take to help teens cope with the psychological and spiritual impact of gun violence.
The healing process takes time, and it's important that churches realize how crucial ongoing spiritual and emotional care remains to survivors' long-term healing. In this Christian Post article, I draw on our recent research to highlight three ways churches can help meet survivors' psychological and spiritual needs in the wake of mass shootings.
In my latest book, I share insights drawn from my experience as a disaster researcher as well as a survivor of both Hurricane Katrina and Stage IV cancer that offer a perspective on how to offer care that actually helps.
Events like this also force us to look inward and ask what we would do if it happened to us. These articles offer practical advice for strengthening preparedness in your church and community so you can be ready if the worst happens—and help keep the worst from happening at all.
Multiple mass shootings in the past few years have occurred at places of worship, and faith leaders need to be asking what they can do to keep something similar from happening at their place of worship, and how they can prepare for the unthinkable but real possibility. In this Christianity Todayinterview, former FEMA chief W. Craig Fugate shares how churches and houses of worship can have a better conversation about how to move forward and prepare for possible events without compromising their core identity or community responsibility.
Too often, our reactions to shootings are grounded in fear. It’s important that our preparedness and safety efforts recognize the reality of the risk without compromising the nature of what a church is created to be: an open and welcoming community while also being wise. In this piece for Sojourners, I offer a few tips for churches to help prepare for the worst—and to do all that they can to prevent the worst from happening at all.
In this Church Law & Tax article, I outline a few practical ways your church can prepare for a shooting, from planning to training.
This manual I co-authored provides practical resources for emergency planning and crisis management, with best practices for local congregations.
I’m a founding signer and spokesperson for the Prayers & Action campaign, which began as a grassroots movement on Facebook, where it was formerly known as Prayer Warriors Against Gun Violence. With more than 15,000 followers, the community is dedicated to praying for an end to gun violence in our nation while, at the same time, lifting up the survivors of gun violence in prayer. Backed by a coalition of today's most prominent evangelical leaders, pastors, churches and organizations, Prayers & Action is committed to ending gun violence through prayer and action.
Laura Leonard is a communications specialist at the Humanitarian Disaster Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @lmarieleonard.