Last week we were asked to help a Glasgow community struggling to come to terms with the loss of a community member who had lost his life to violence in the very heart of the community. Ten or fifteen years ago we would have struggled to keep up with this sort of occurrence because it was so common, but now thankfully it is relatively rare. For those impacted by violence whether family, friends, neighbours or emergency responders it doesn’t matter how rare an occurrence murder is, it is something they will need to live with for a long time and remember for the rest of their lives. The ripple effects of violence are huge and the impact is felt widely.
Trauma can sneak up on you when you least expect it, witnessing or being close to something very distressing can leave you feeling really upset even if it didn’t happen to you and sometimes that can become overwhelming. You can feel very sad or even guilty because it happened to another person while you are still alive. Small reminders, whether sights or sounds, can be very triggering, they may cause flashbacks. In the aftermath of violence some people may find themselves feeling constantly on edge or jumpy, the slightest thing can provoke an extreme reaction and sleep may not come easily. Others may have a completely opposite response and feel completely numb. Your brain does all of these things to try and protect you from a perceive threat and recognising them is the first step on the journey to recovery.
We put together a short leaflet with some suggestions for self-care that can help but if you can’t shake those feelings off it is important to speak to someone and not let things build up. Helplines like Breathing Space and Victim Support can offer support and connect you to someone who understands how you feel and can connect you with other organisations for more support.
Some people find breathing and relaxation exercises helpful. For others Grounding Techniques like splashing your face with cold water, going for a walk in the fresh air, taking time to notice things around you or concentrating on the texture of an object work better. They help keep you within your window of tolerance and in the present. The infographic below from NICABM helps to explain the window of tolerance.
For our part last weekend it was a privilege to spend time in the community affected, to offer support to those who wanted it, and to be present for the balloon release in memory of their neighbour and friend. We’d like to thank some of the organisations in the community who reached out to us. Our thoughts will be with you in the coming weeks and months.