Tips from a counselor on how to cope with the trauma of recent weeks

HOUSTON – The unrest in the country following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others has taken an emotional toll on many and if you’re feeling more emotionally triggered than you have in the past, an expert says it all chalks up to trauma.

“It’s simply that we’re being re-traumatized while we’re already in the midst of a global pandemic,” said counselor, Katherine Barner. “We’re hearing over and over this same narrative of black bodies that are being killed, for no apparent reason, and we’re seeing that.”

Barner specializes in grief and trauma and said George Floyd’s death at the hands of white police officers has an eerie similarity to that of Eric Garner who died in 2014 after being restrained by a New York police officer.

“We’re hearing those same words again, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.’ So, the re-traumatizations that we’ve never healed from any of those events and we are now forced again to be faced with it,” Barner said.

She said that when protesters around the country began looting, setting buildings on fire and rioting, it was their reaction to not feeling heard.

“They don’t feel like they have an outlet. They may not have access to access to services such as mental health services such as going talk to a counselor,” Barner said.

Barner suggests parents take the time to talk to their children openly and honestly about what is happening with black people being killed by police officers.

“Unfortunately, for many of us in the African American community, we’ve been having these conversations over and over,” Barner said. “For our counterparts who are not African American, there are some conversations that need to be had in their household also, and some of that is being honest about where this is coming from.”

As the days go on and we try to heal from this latest event, Barner said it is important to acknowledge what we are feeling right now.

“I think the very first thing that we do is give ourselves permission to feel whatever we are feeling, and not pretend like we’re fine and not angry,” she said.

She also suggested people take some time to disconnect from TV and social media and reach out to a counselor if you need help.