Celebrating Pride while mourning Pulse
June can be a wonderful, joyful time of year for the LGBTQ+ community. Every year we march, along with our allies, to commemorate birth of the modern gay rights movement-kicked off by the Stonewall riots on June 28, 1969. In most cities around the world parades, festivals, musical events and parties specifically geared toward LGBTQ+ folks, take place over long weekends. These gatherings are meant to be safe places for members of our community to express themselves-hold hands, kiss and revel LGBTQ+ culture, free from the fear of hateful words or actions. Unfortunately, this celebratory time has taken on new meaning for those living in Orlando since the shooting at Pulse nightclub 3 years ago.
Although this shooting effected people across the world, the hometown of this tragedy has near constant reminders of the losses we suffered. It can leave some feeling guilty, sad, angry, scared-but more likely a combination of these-for wanting to celebrate Pride month with the rest of the country. I believe that it is important to recognize and validate the wide variety of responses people have when trying to recover from an event like this. There is no right or wrong way to feel, nor is there a timeline on the healing process. It’s ok if your healing looks different from someone else’s. Maintaining your mental health is always important, but there are times when we have to make sure we check in and be even more vigilant. The month of June, for some, is one of those times.
So, how do we reconcile a time of joy and celebration that overlaps a reminder of great tragedy and sorrow? First, it’s necessary to recognize and validate the conflict you might feel. It’s ok to feel excited and happy looking forward to Pride events, but also feel sad or grief at the same time. Our minds are strong enough to experience such different emotions at once. It’s important to allow the emotions to happen as you feel them-try not to compartmentalize or shove the “bad” emotions to the side. I’ve heard many in the LGBTQ+ community say they aren’t sure how they’re supposed to feel, as if there is one “correct” way to feel about this. I assure you, however you are feeling is the way you’re supposed to feel. Sometimes the feelings may not be effective or acting on them may not be healthy-but we have to acknowledge the emotion before we can determine if that’s the case.
I believe the best way to heal is to connect with others. Attend Pride events, get together with friends and talk about how you’re feeling. Most Pride activities in the Orlando area acknowledge the loss we suffered and how, through this tragedy, our community was strengthened and brought together. Mentioning “the 49” is not taboo or discouraged-instead, we openly pay tribute and try to create something positive out of the loss. Fundraisers and events for various organizations designed to help those within LGBTQ+ community are often held in their memory. Creating hope for the future has helped us heal tremendously.
Even though you may be connecting with community or validating your emotions, you may still have fear and grief that has changed your outlook on the world. Some may feel they weren’t close enough to the tragedy to have a “right” to feel effected. Unfortunately this tragedy has lasting implications on how we see ourselves and the world. If this event, or any other tragic event, has left you unable to cope or made you unsure how to move forward a licensed mental health counselor can help. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to make an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando psychotherapists.