November 22, 2021

Educators Circle Our Arms Around Waukesha

Educators Circle Our Arms Around Waukesha Featured Image

The hearts of Wisconsin educators are heavy following the tragedy in Waukesha in which 12 children and 11 adults were hit by a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed on the route of a holiday parade, killing at least five people and injuring over 40.

“Wisconsin educators are circling our arms around the families suffering in Waukesha,” WEAC President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen said. “We are thankful for all the heroes who acted quickly to help the victims. Our union’s commitment is to support students, educators and families as we all come to terms with this senseless tragedy.

“This tragedy is weighing on us as educators,” she said. “In our schools, we are the front lines for students struggling with loss, whether through violence, the pandemic or other factors. Educators, please take time to process this latest tragedy and make sure you’re OK. If you need help, let our union help. Contact us.”

Here are some links that you might find useful for yourself, or for guiding students and families through tragedy.

Managing Strong Emotional Reactions to Traumatic Events: Tips for Families and Teachers

Coping with Traumatic Events

More about Responding to Trauma

It’s natural to be afraid after something scary or dangerous happens. The brain’s response to frightening events can induce a number of neurobiological responses. This can include trouble sleeping; feeling on edge frequently; frequent headaches; a racing heart; being very easily startled, anxious, or jumpy; having flashbacks; or avoiding things that remind you of the event.

Talking with a mental health professional can help someone who experienced symptoms learn to cope. It’s important for anyone with trauma induced symptoms to be treated by a mental health professional who is trained in trauma-focused therapy.

Traumatic events affect people differently, so a response that works for one person may not work for another. Some people may have to try different treatments to find what works for their symptoms.

Strategies to Consider in the Aftermath of Trauma

Remember there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to feel. People react in different ways to trauma, so don’t tell yourself (or anyone else) what you should be thinking, feeling, or doing.

Don’t ignore your feelings—it will only slow recovery. It may seem better in the moment to avoid experiencing your emotions, but they exist whether you’re paying attention to them or not. Even intense feelings will pass if you simply allow yourself to feel what you feel.

Avoid obsessively reliving the traumatic event. Repetitious thinking or viewing horrific images over and over can overwhelm your nervous system, making it harder to think clearly. Partake in activities that keep your mind occupied (read, watch a movie, cook, play with your kids), so you’re not dedicating all your energy and attention to the traumatic event.

Reestablish routine. There is comfort in the familiar. After a disaster, getting back—as much as possible—to your normal routine, will help you minimize traumatic stress, anxiety, and hopelessness. Even if your work or school routine is disrupted, you can structure your day with regular times for eating, sleeping, spending time with family, and relaxing.