COVID-19 pandemic alters how Nova Scotians grieve the victims of mass shooting
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotians continue to deal with the aftermath of a mass killing with at least 22 victims, spanning 16 crimes scenes in several different communities.
The natural instinct of those living in the close-knit communities affected by this tragedy would be to come together in person, for funerals, memorial services, and other public tributes.
However, restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 are altering the way Nova Scotians mourn.
Dr. Dayna Lee-Baggley is a registered psychologist in Halifax. She says it is normal for people to feel a whole range of emotions during times of great stress.
“That includes things like sadness, anger, grief, and also it’s OK to feel nothing at all. Sometime we just feel numb and that’s all OK,” says Lee-Baggley.
“Grief is kind of like a wave that will hit us and sometimes it comes because it is triggered by something and sometimes it comes unpredictably. Just in the same way that it is really hard to swim upstream, it’s actually a lot easier if we just allow our feelings to be there. So if you think about riding a wave to the shore, versus trying to swim against the current, often it is just easier to allow yourself to feel sad, to have a good cry, rather than trying to stop yourself from feeling those things.”
Nova Scotians have been creative in finding ways to show their respects for those who lost their lives during the killing rampage, with everything from candlelight vigils, makeshift memorials, and musical tributes.
Cpl. Jennifer Clarke is mourning the death of her friend and fellow officer, Const. Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the RCMP. Clarke says the tributes really do help.
“We know we're going to get through this. We're doing the best we can and manage our emotions and feelings,” says Clarke.
Serena Lewis is a bereavement, grief, and wellness coordinator with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. She says there are many ways to reach out without gathering in person.
“Sending sympathy cards, calling our neighbours, text messages to check in on one another,” says Lewis.
The best treatment and tool we have to manage grief is to support one another, according to Lee-Baggley
“It is still a powerful message to say to someone, ‘I just wish I could hug you right now.’ We can still know what that feels like even just by imagining that,” says Lee-Baggley.
“Tears are actually an important social method to indicate that you need support, so make use of the technology that we do have. We can still feel connected even if you aren’t physically present and that’s an amazing ability that humans have that we can take advantage of.”
For those struggling to cope with their emotions, Lee-Baggley says there are a variety of ways you can reach out for help.
“There is a lot of help available through mental health, both through NSHA (Nova Scotia Health Authority) and mental health crisis services. It is really important to reach out and connect with people, whether that’s people in your community or your family, or whether that’s through one of the services that is available. These are all available online and virtually as well,” says Lee-Baggley.
“I would make use of whatever technology you have available. Even over the phone, hearing somebody’s voice, hearing them say if I was there I’d give you a hug right now, that’s still comforting to us and it is still helpful to know that people are out there.”
If you need someone to talk to, call the provincial crisis line 1-888-429-8167 or Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 or text 68 68 68.