Orlando is grieving. The families of the 49 people murdered and 53 injured and countless others impacted by the horror and trauma of the worst mass shooting in American history since the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890.

Less than 48 hours before this, another atrocity in the murder of pop singer Christina Grimmie as she signed autographs after her show at The Plaza Live venue, where eight years before I played shows in a band during my life long before social work.

If it is safe for you to do so, be with your feelings, and take the time you need for them. Let the anguish and despair come. They are valid. And come up for air. Let me encourage you to look around, and recognize that whatever you are feeling, you are not alone and that the people who have been moved and ignited to act in solidarity and compassion far outnumber those whose pain, bigotry and hatred would harm.

Connect with others. Look for the helpers. The neighbors and strangers who come together, who show up around the worst to remind us of what is best about people.

Anger is sometimes a way to feel powerful in situations that make us feel powerless.

Photo of the Orlando Vigil at the Dr. Phillips Performing Art Center in Downtown Orlando. Photo Credit: Emily Winters

It can be a mobilizing force, and one distinct from hatred, as the impact anger empowers is not bound to exact harm or reproduce itself. Rather, anger often seeks the change that would relieve it. Remember the power of groups – our togetherness is our prime adaptive feature and what has enabled us to survive and thrive. Bear in mind that in togetherness that seeks healing, anger and suffering can metabolize, while in isolation is often metastasizes. Seek the company of others, share your story, listen to theirs. Join one another in both processing and distraction. Remind each other of the beauty and hope that exists in the world, in the communities of LGBTQ and Orlando, and in one another.

The LGBTQ community and their Allies are strong and manifold. The following are suggestions for ways you can cope with the impact of this atrocity, and some things already happening in which you may take heart and refuge.

If you live in Orlando:

  • Donate blood. For two days now, the people of Orlando have shown up in droves to donate blood, with several blood banks reporting they are at capacity.
  • Attend vigils in the area or any of the several across the nation, as many cities and neighborhoods are holding them in solidarity.
  • Donate! Donations like water and snacks to the blood donors and vigil-keepers are a great way to contribute.
  • Attend and suggest support groups.
  • Look into community activities and gatherings of solidarity and support: http://www.weareorlando.org

If you are outside the area:

  • Donate to fundraising efforts for the victims and survivors and their families, as in this Equality Florida fundraising for the victims and survivors; at the time if this writing, they raised almost $300,000 in 5 hours.
  • Petition your local and state representatives for action around issues this atrocity highlights such as gun control, or bans on allowing sexually active gay men and MSM to donate blood.

If you are a mental health worker or provider:

Donate your time to helping buffer the immense need for psychological and emotional support by offering free debriefings and support groups for people in the area, or dedicate a few blocks of your time for drop-in or call-in sessions, as these Chicago therapists offer: “We are a group of mental health therapists in the Lincoln Square area who would like to make ourselves available to the LGBTQ community in the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy. We will make ourselves available throughout the day and evening on Monday, 6/13 as well as throughout the week. This is a free service to the community, so please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are Dr. Edward Fajardo, Dr. Kuan Lin, Dr. Nancy Luna, and Mr. Kurt Mohning. Collectively, we provide services in English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Taiwanese. Please feel free to contact us at 312-623-0502, 773-340-9976, or 773-319-4325.”

Please share to help disseminate this information.

Perhaps most crucially, just as you allow yourself to feel your grief, anger, and pain, please allow yourself to recognize the incredible show of support, solidarity, and humanity that has arisen -immediately- within the Orlando community. Because that is also the world, and the majority of it outside of and around this atrocity.

Drawing from President Obama’s statement yesterday:

“As we go together, we will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts — friends who helped friends, took care of each other and saved lives. In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear or turn against each other. Instead, we will stand united, as Americans”.

Take care and be kind.

Interested in becoming a Social Worker?

Provided by contributing expert, Brandon Haydon, LCSW:

Brandon Haydon, LCSW is an expert contributor to MSWcareers.com and currently works at the LifeWorks Psychotherapy Center in Chicago. Lifeworks is an explicitly inclusive practice welcoming clients of all ages, ethnicities, races, spiritual practices and religious traditions, genders and sexualities.

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