griefAs the tragedy in Orlando continues to unfold, I find myself asking:


How do you grieve for someone you don’t know?

How do you grieve when the situation keeps changing?

How do you grieve when it’s all so confusing?


I have written this column to answer these questions and to offer you some suggestions on what to do with your grief.

No two people grieve the same way. Don’t try to do it like your friends, respect your own grieving process. Your friends may be angry, you may be sad. Your friends may be openly weeping, you may feel numb. However you’re doing it is right for you. Trust yourself and what you’re feeling.

If you can do something constructive, do it. If you can donate money, do it. If you can donate blood here in San Diego, do it (people here need blood too). If you can be kinder to people around you, do it. If you feel moved to say something positive and helpful on social media, do it.

Taking constructive, positive action is a good antidote to feeling helpless.

The Orlando situation is very confusing, on many levels. Watching the news, the information keeps changing. As I watch it, my emotions keep changing too. Accept the confusion. As I sometimes tell myself, “Some things are unfigureoutable” (a word I made up).

Don’t be surprised by your emotional intensity, or lack of it. If you feel so much at once, that’s okay. If you feel overwhelmed and numb, that’s okay too. Grief is not predictable. You may think you’re “over” it, and then, tomorrow, you see more photos of the dead and break down crying. We’re all riding the roller coaster of grief and it will, eventually, subside.

A while back I took a training for therapists called, “Helping People Cope with Disaster”. Here are a few suggestions on helping yourself at this difficult and confusing time:

Talk with people about this – It’s usually best not to isolate and keep all this inside you. Talking about Orlando – and all the thoughts and emotions it evokes – makes us feel less alone and more sane. We realize that everyone is going through pretty much the same stuff that we are.

Limit your exposure to the news – Don’t watch the news all day. Balance the tragedy of Orlando with the normalcy of the rest of your life. You might want to check in with the news once or twice a day, rather than once or twice an hour.

Treat yourself with more kindness and care than usual – When disaster strikes, whether it’s in Orlando or closer to home, it helps a lot to be extra-gentle and kind to yourself. Do things to make yourself feel loved and cared for. Grief needs to be felt, but it’s hard. So be good to yourself and help yourself through it.

Allow yourself to feel all your emotions and get help if you need it – Some of us need to talk with our friends more than usual. Others will want to have more quiet time. A friend of mine took a walk in Balboa Park to help him cope with his thoughts and feelings. A client of mine started cleaning her house and said it made her feel better (more “in control”). I find that listening to music helps me in times like these, as does petting every dog and cat I come in contact with (I’m such an animal lover).

If you find yourself in need of more than the support of your friends, get some professional help. The county has a 24/7 HotLine: 1-800-479-3339, and all their assistance is free. If you need to talk with a counselor in person, call the San Diego LGBT Center at 619- 692-2077, extension 208 and ask to speak with Teresa or Nyjah. These wonderful, wise women can help you find a counselor either at The Center itself or elsewhere in San Diego.

And, above all else, stand in solidarity with your LGBT brothers and sisters, here in San Diego as well as Orlando. We’re all in this together, we’ll get through it together. Love and support your sisters and brothers, and let them love and support you.