Coping with Grief After Community Violence

It is not uncommon for individuals and communities as a whole to experience grief reactions and anger after an incident of community violence. Grief is a common response of sorrow and confusion that comes from losing someone or something important to you. Most people will experience a natural occurrence of grief after the death of a loved one, but grief and anger can be the result of other types of losses. In situations of community violence, people may experience the loss of their sense of safety, their trust in those who live in their neighborhood, or their trust in local government. The trauma and grief of community violence can be experienced by all involved.

Grief Reactions to Violence

Many people express feeling empty and numb, or unable to feel. Some people state that they become angry at others or at situations, or they just feel angry in general, even without a reason.

Physical reactions to grief and anger may include:
• Trembling or shakiness
• Muscle weakness
• Nausea, trouble eating
• Trouble sleeping, trouble breathing
• Dry mouth
• Nightmares
• Social withdraw or no desire to participate in their usual activities, work, or school

How long do grief reactions last?

Grief lasts as long as it takes you to accept and learn to live with the changes that have occurred in your community due to the violence and its aftermath. For some people, grief lasts a few months; for others, it may take more than a year. It’s different for each person depending on their health, coping styles, culture, family supports, and other life experiences. How long people grieve may also depend on the resilience of the community and the ability of its members to take on roles and responsibilities that will help restore the basic needs of the community.

What can communities do to cope with their grief?

Often the community needs to come together to honor those who died and find meaning in their deaths in a way that will help everyone in the community recover.

It may be determined to work out their differences in other ways in the future—for example, by forming a community advisory group or identifying a local leader to be their liaison with law enforcement and other government entities.

What can individuals do to cope with their grief?

• Talk to others who understand and respect how you feel
• Recognize that although you might have these feelings over a long period, they will likely be less and less intense over time
• Make sure to exercise and eat healthy meals
• Do the things that you used to enjoy doing, even if you don’t always feel like it. This will help you get back into your routines
• Allow yourself to feel joy at times and to cry when you need
• Become more socially active

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