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Psychologist offers advice to cope with Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 6:42 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2021 at 7:22 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The tragedy in Waukesha has many of our hearts feeling heavy. It might seem impossible to move past from the pain and grief, but a psychologist with UW Health spoke with Action 2 News about ways people can cope.

“It’s normal to have anything ranging from a kind of numbness and denial and not feel like it was real,” said Dr. Victoria Egizio, the Manager of Health Psychology at UW Health.

She explained there can be an immediate psychological impact following a tragedy.

“Usually, folks experience a huge range of emotional reactions, thoughts, feelings and behaviors as a result of it,” she said.

Dr. Egizio said not everyone has the same response to a traumatic experience but most people, without a mental health issue, can get through it over time. She said people who have depression or anxiety, should keep an eye on themselves and reach out for help if they feel affected. However, one way to move forward can be by sticking to routine.

“The brain and the body rely on routine, and that helps us feel comforted. It helps us stay in a safer and healthier place mentally and physically and kind of functioning at our peak so that way we’re better able to handle stress and problem solving,” said Dr. Egizio.

She said it’s okay to grieve, but don’t isolate yourself. Instead, reach out to family or your community for support.

“Depending on the situation, trying to remember the good times and think about the good times and plan for future good times--something that’s going to give you a little bit a hope,” she said.

If planning ahead does not feel appropriate, she said remembrance of the good times can help.

She also said people who were not directly impacted by the trauma could still receive second-hand feelings. It’s known as a vicarious experience.

“Just because you weren’t there doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel like you experienced a strong reaction to it,” she said. “A lot of the same things for people who were there, still apply.”

When it comes to speaking to children, Dr. Egizio said parents can be honest with kids but should decide how much information is too much. She said teenagers will be more aware of what is happening, therefore, an honest conversation is important.

She advices parents to help their children stay in routine for get a sense of normalcy and to feel safe. Adults should try the same for their mental health.

Dr. Egizio said people should reach out for professional help if they don’t feel better in about a month, but can seek help right away as well.

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