A KCM BLOG
On 10.01.17 Stephen Paddock put his evil plan into action in Las Vegas, NV., killing 59, and wounding 520. Thousands of others were traumatized.
As a means to offer assistance in the wake of this crisis, KCM provides the following information to help those affected to best cope.
A crisis is a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. While the term is synonymous with trauma, there are important differences between the two. We will address the matter of trauma in a later post. But for now, we want to make the point that anyone facing intense difficulty or trouble as a result of the Las Vegas shooting could be said to be experiencing crisis to one degree or another.
In his book, The New Guide To Crisis & Trauma Counseling, Dr. H. Norman Wright explains the four phases of crisis. Knowing what these phases are can help us gauge where we are at as we process our crisis, which can then help us better determine what we need to do to best cope during each phase.
Phase One – Impact
When crisis impacts our life we tend to experience a set of symptoms that may involve: A sense to fight or flee; disorienting thought processes; feelings of numbness and overwhelm; limited sleep and appetite; a search for what was lost; as well as a tendency to reminisce. This first phase of crisis can last for hours or days, but in certain instances may last longer if the crisis is on-going.
Coping In Phase One:
Support is paramount when facing a crisis. Depending on the intensity of this first phase we might need help making decisions. Having others prepare meals, go grocery shopping, help out with household chores, accompany us to important or challenging meetings, etc., can go a long way in supporting our needs when impacted by crisis. Other forms of support come in the form of time spent with family and friends who are able to listen to us, receiving thoughtful cards, others praying for us, verses of Scripture, etc. It is important that we let family, friends, pastors, employers, etc., know what we need in the way of support. If we find it challenging to sleep during Phase One, allowing time for naps or quiet times of rest during the day is important. In cases where sleep is severely affected, contacting our primary care physician is wise. If our appetite is affected, protein drinks sipped through a straw will likely supply our nutritional needs for the time being.
Passages of Scripture to Consider: Psalm 34:18; Matthew 5:4; Proverbs 3:5-6
Phase Two – Withdrawal-Confusion
Days or weeks into the crisis is when we typically begin to feel intense emotions. This also tends to be a rather draining phase due to the lack of sleep and appetite experienced during the Impact Phase, coupled with experiencing the powerful emotions in Phase Two. Ambiguity of thought is to be expected. A sense of feeling “cloudy” or “puzzled” is a normal experience while in crisis. It is common for us to engage in wishful thinking during Phase Two. In the case of Las Vegas, those who where there might wish they’d never attended the event, or that they would have left prior to the shooting. Family members of those killed or wounded might attempt to bargain with God to undo this horror. In this particular case, we bargain because the result of Paddock’s evil (i.e., loss and turmoil) is too much for us to accept at this phase of the crisis. Phase Two can take days to weeks to process through. Depending upon the variables, in some cases this phase can last for months.
Coping In Phase Two:
As noted, it is common to experience intense emotions during this second phase. Because we tend to be overwhelmed in crisis, we will likely withdraw to some degree from family, friends, parishioners, coworkers, etc. While some withdrawal can be healthy in order to rest or process emotions on our own, we encourage those in crisis to ask trusted family and friends to gently encourage us to reengage when they sense we are withdrawing to too great a degree.
It can be rather challenging for our family and friends to watch us suffer through our crisis, some might give unsolicited advice, others may become frustrated with us when we don’t follow their counsel. Nobody is at their best in crisis, and this applies to those who are working to support us in our time of need as well. In such instances, it is best to kindly, gently let the individual know what we need from them. While not everyone is likely to meet our needs, most will do their best.
Phase Two requires time to process through our emotions. We suggest journaling, talking with family and friends, dedicating times of prayer, as well as light forms of exercise appropriate to one’s physical state of health. Many people find counseling to be beneficial during this phase, contact your pastor/minister or seek the services of a professional counselor.
Passages of Scripture to Consider: Psalm 147:3; Isaiah 41:10, 57:15; II Corinthians 12:9
Phase Three – Acceptance
While emotions still tend to run high in this third phase of crisis, we find ourselves experiencing more positive thoughts once again. The confusion experienced during Phase Two is lifting, and we are better able to concentrate and resolve problems. We withdraw less and begin to invest in life more. During Phase Three it is common for those working through crisis to report they sense they are learning from their crisis. It may take weeks to months to achieve enough acceptance to move forward into the fourth and final phase of crisis.
Coping in Phase Three:
In effect, during Phase Two we exhaust our efforts to avoid the losses/changes resulting from crisis, which then allows us to move forward into acceptance. Emotions remain intense during the outset of this phase, so it is important that we continue to lean on our network of support, as well as process through our emotions in healthy ways (i.e., talking, journaling, praying, exercising, eating healthy, etc.). It is important that we be gentle and patient with ourselves during this third phase: acceptance will not come overnight, we are going to have a mixture of good days and challenging days. It is helpful for us to share with our network of support the incremental successes we are having. This helps to assure them we are making progress in overcoming our crisis, and it is an energizing means as we give God glory for His steadfast love and support during this challenging season.
Passages of Scripture to Consider: Psalm 55:22; John 14:27; I Peter 2:24, 4:19
Phase Four – Reconstruction/Reconciliation
During this last phase hope has returned, and we tend to feel more self-confident. With our restored ability to think clearly, we sense that we are once again capable of progressing in life; new achievements are realized.
Coping in Phase Four:
Phase Four tends to bring a desire to look back and assess what we have been through, to better understand how God moved in it all, and we feel motivated to capitalize on the positives that come out of our crisis. Journaling in this final phase can be very enriching, as we look at the positive facets of how God has grown and transformed us through this challenging season. The Bible offers several passages that encourage us to celebrate (i.e., Leviticus 23:44; Psalms 149:5; Ecclesiastes 3:4, 13; Philippians 4:4, etc.), so it is important for us to be intentional and devote time to celebrate our growth. Transformed and energized, this is the time to construct anew in our life. We encourage praying for guidance as to what God would have us do in life with the end results of our crisis.
Passages of Scripture to Consider: Romans 8:28; I Corinthians 13:7; Hebrews 11:1; Revelation 21:3-4
Some final thoughts on this post: Crisis can result in the loss of a love one, which then brings us into a state of bereavement. Processing through a crisis while in bereavement will increase the time required to work through the four phases. While this might seem like an obvious point, we want to normalize the length involved in such cases. Generally, it will take us 18–24 months to work through our bereavement to reach Phase Four, but this depends on many variables (i.e., community support, state of health, type of loss, etc.), for some it may take a shorter amount of time, while others may need more time. The goal is to progress through our crisis and grief in a manner and timing that allows for thoroughness. A pastor/minister/counselor can prove vital in helping us achieve this goal.