VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Two weeks ago, everything changed in Virginia Beach.
The tragedy left deep scars. 12 dead, gunned down by a fellow worker who earlier in the day he put in his resignation.
Grief counselors have spent two weeks mending city workers. For some they are still far from OK. “I have been here for five days, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. I have definitely seen a progression,” said Liza Baker with Warrior Family Ministries. “They seem to be getting angry with waves of rage as to what has happened. So we are getting to see the real feelings of what has happened.”
“I can say Uno has become a great ice breaker, and the other crisis response dogs as well,” says Joann Wagner along with Uno, a little white Bichon, representing Animal Assisted Crisis Response. “They are happy to pet a dog and that starts the conversation.”
The conversation from the survivors of May 31 begins with what they want to talk about.
“As a chaplain, I offer the ministry of presence. They are not in the grieving process yet, any need somebody to listen to them if they choose to tell their stories,” said Rev. Cheryl Robinson, the Bereavement Coordinator and Chaplain for Intrepid Hospice.
After the fall of May 31, you get up, and it takes a long time, much longer than two weeks. These three grief counselors are helping Virginia Beach City employees.
“We basically let them know we are present, that we are here to support them if they need to talk. We are available and as they open up we just listen, and embrace if they allow us to,” Rev. Robinson said.
They say the workers keep coming. They want to open up, but some don’t.
The traumatic events are never far from thought. “Some of them are dealing with troubles like sleeping at night, some are talking about issues with noise, which is just your typical stress reaction to something like this,” Wagner added.
Baker also pointed out “If you want to put a label on it, I would call it post traumatic stress, but not disorder yet, unless they don’t deal with it, and it could evolve into that.”
The city workers have noticed changes within them. They are survivors, but victims too. “Some they tend to be forgetful and some of them are reporting they have lost things, that they just don’t feel centered and they are kind of wandering,” Baker added.
The grief counselors see a loss of equilibrium and a loss of balance physically and spiritually. “Some will begin to verbalize what they saw, what they experienced, they realize it is an up and down roller coaster. Some days you are up and somedays you are down, you just don’t know how that grief is going to hit you,” Robinson said.
It’s a turbulent time for all, the sadness doesn’t go away as employees work towards finding a new normal, the old one is gone forever. “At any given time the grief can hit you. You can be happy, you can be sad, angry all at one time, so they are trying to come to grips with that,” Robinson added.