PORTAPIQUE, N.S. -- In the aftermath of a weekend shooting rampage in Nova Scotia, the swath of grief being experienced by many is unimaginable -- especially in Portapique and the surrounding communities.

Mental health professionals and church leaders say it will take a lot of time to heal these wounds, and those who were affected directly, and even indirectly, will require long-term support to make it through this trauma.

Under normal non-pandemic circumstances, a church would be a centrepiece of community outreach, especially following a tragedy like the mass shooting that claimed the lives of 22 people and devastated the Nova Scotia hamlet.

"We would respond by opening up our facility and inviting people to come to our services," said Pastor Josh Fillmore. "Having a memorial. Crying on people's shoulders. Hugging."

Fillmore says staff and volunteers at Faith Baptist Church are doing everything they can to reach out to their neighbours and to support those who are suffering and shattered by loss.

"Our sign out front says, 'Do you need to talk?' Just reach to us through our website," Fillmore said.

He says the phone is ringing non-stop.

"You get people frustrated, angry," said Fillmore. "You get people anxious and scared. You get people who are just numb."

Serena Lewis, a grief and wellness coordinator, says the Nova Scotia Health Authority is offering counseling support through social media and group chats.

"We're reaching out with our mental health, our school teams, our palliative care teams," Lewis said.

Says she respects the theme of the slogan "Nova Scotia Strong," but she says it sometimes takes strength for people to ask for help when they are distraught.

"I think it's important that people are courageous for help and support," Lewis said. "That doesn't necessarily mean we all have to have counseling support of each other."

Social psychologist Kathleen Kevany says, for the people who live in this community and are staggered by grief, the question going forward will be can their resilience allow them to push forward?

"Will it let us undermine our own sense of ourselves?" Kevany said. "Will we let a shooter, turn our lives around?"

Pastor Fillmore says that won't happen. He wants everyone in his community to know he and others from this church will be available non-stop.

"We're shouldering this with the community," he said. "After all the publicity, all the investigating, we're still going to be here."