Love and Loss in Orlando — The Personal Side

I remember exactly what I was doing when 9-11 happened just like members of generations past remember what they were doing when they learned Kennedy had been assassinated. I will always remember where I was and who I was with when I learned about the Pulse tragedy. I was getting ready to head to breakfast with my family. While getting ready to leave, I glanced through the news on my phone and then started reading aloud what had happened just hours before inside Pulse nightclub—my eyes glued to the words I was reading in almost disbelief. I will forever remember my stomach dropping and my mind reeling as I tried to process such a horrible reality—my mind anxiously racing, thinking about anyone I might personally know who could be affected. And, if you are like me, I feel sure you will always remember where you were too when you first heard the news.

Loss of this magnitude profoundly affects us all. No matter our gender, sexual orientation, age or race, we all deeply feel loss—especially loss so great. On some level, I have to believe that all of humanity grieves in some way when so many lives are senselessly taken in such a horrible way.

While some of us “grieve generally” because we did not personally know anyone who died that night, others of you are experiencing the hard reality of personal loss and grief. If you have never experienced loss or grief there are actual stages of it. Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified 5 stages of grief during her work with terminally ill patients. The 5 stages of grief include:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. If you lost someone that night at Pulse you will most likely experience all or many of these stages—though they do not always occur in that exact order.

If, like me, you did not personally know anyone who died that night you most likely will still experience challenging emotions—feelings like disbelief, anger (why did this happen) and sadness. Some people also experience what is called survivor guilt. Survivor guilt occurs when a person feels guilty that they survived while others did not. All of these feelings are normal emotional responses. Feelings of anxiety and depression are also normal parts of the grieving process. So, allow yourself time to identify and process your feelings as they emerge. Write your thoughts and feelings down in a journal or discuss them with a licensed Orlando counselor or trusted friend.

The grief process usually lasts a few months. If however, after several weeks you find yourself still feeling overwhelmed with feelings of depression and are having trouble completing life’s daily tasks, you may be crossing over from grief into depression. Whether you are grieving or dealing with depression, a trained and seasoned therapist can help you. She can provide a warm and safe environment where you can identify and process your feelings. She can also assess your mental health needs and determine where you are on the healing journey and how to help you proceed along the path. 

There is always hope for tomorrow. I could not be a mental health counselor if I did not truly believe that. If you would like to speak with a licensed psychotherapist about grief, depression, anxiety or any other emotional need, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to speak with a trained counselor.


Yolanda Brailey