The recent shooting in the U.S. city of Las Vegas, Nevada is not only devastating, but has undoubtedly led to hatred, anger and fear amongst many. Such events continue to present a growing threat to our safety and also force us to accept that mass killing has become a part of regular life. This realization is not only frightening, but more than ever, it requires us to introspect and refrain from allowing hatred and fear to seep further into our lives and communities.

The challenge of overcoming toxic emotions

At some point, life on the outside will appear to go back to normal, but for many, the inside will speak a very different language for some time to come. Disbelief, fear, rage and hatred become primary emotions after events like this, as I discovered for myself during the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. I grieved the loss of loved ones and tried to come to terms with the vulnerability and uncertainty of life while overpowered by hatred, fear and pain.

Overcoming the intensity of such emotions proves to be a significant challenge in times such as these, as toxicity seeps into every pore of your being, clouding all reason. And while these feelings may be justified, the truth is that these emotions don’t help us heal and move forward, but keep us stuck and contributing to an unhappy and outraged world. Hatred begets hatred, and we must be careful not to allow these emotions to spread like wildfire, inspiring someone, somewhere to commit yet another monstrous act.

Instead, those of us who are able must be steady, and be careful not to fall into the abyss of the mentally disturbed. We must come together to preserve all that’s still good, and to remind ourselves that often, those who are responsible for such monstrosities are usually in pain, having reached a place of immense isolation as they view life from a deluded state of being.

To move forward, we must be willing to heal and come to terms with our loss by undergoing a process of grieving. Grieving allows us to accept a new reality and to live life with newfound normalcy.

Healing grief, as I discovered for myself, is inextricably linked to the ability to experience emotions sufficiently. Below are a few stages that will play a critical role in this process, especially if you’ve lost someone close to you.

Stage One: Denial

In this stage, a person is unable to come to terms with their recent loss, and they experience an immense amount of pain. Often, life begins to lose all meaning, as they become unsure of how to move forward and find the motivation to do anything of substance.

Denial helps the healing process begin, as it allows a person the vital time they need to digest all that has occurred. Starting to live life without someone we love is difficult, but the truth is that time is the ultimate healer. Denial gives us both time and space to process what has happened, and helps us cope with the fact that our loved one will no longer be physically present in our lives.

Stage Two: Anger

Experiencing anger is healthy after a painful event. By allowing yourself to feel and address anger adequately, in an appropriate manner, you’ll be able to work through unpleasant feelings that can quickly turn into hate.

Seeking help and expressing anger healthily in a safe environment is a critical step in the grieving process.

Seeking help and expressing anger healthily in a safe environment is a critical step in the grieving process. The more you voice your anger, the more this emotion will dissipate, which will allow you to heal.

Suppressed emotions become toxic and lead to unhealthy outcomes that can manifest at a later stage, while also preventing us from recovering quickly. But when we’re able to express all that’s festering inside, this allows us to heal, balance and transform.

Stage Three: Depression

Once a person has dealt with highly charged and complex emotions, the next step is to experience emptiness, allowing for grief to enter. Often, people will get depressed and sad as they begin to comprehend and come to terms with their loss. Many withdraw from life and are unable to feel joy or motivation as they’re forced to confront the magnitude of having to live within a new reality.

Depression or sadness allows them to do this, and that’s why it’s also a significant step in the grieving process. Once the cleansing process is complete, a person must be able to experience what their new reality will feel like, and this occurs through emptiness. We must cleanse toxic emotions to make space for the void, which will give rise to new feelings of sadness and depression as we slowly move towards a new reality.

Stage Four: Acceptance

Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean that a person may ever reach a place of total normalcy, and be able to fill the emptiness within. But it does mean that they can come to terms with their loss or the gravity of a particular situation. People can emerge stronger and more willing to move forward, live, grow, find meaning and focus on what makes them feel happy and human again.

Communities must help individuals

Group of men and women taking fitness class at university - Mass shootings and mass hatredHow quickly someone will heal is entirely different for each person. But when we develop the will to recover, this hastens the process, as it gives us something to work towards after a crisis. Minimizing media exposure that only reinforces the event, reaching out for help, taking time to breathe, reducing stress, keeping yourself occupied and exercising are all things that will also tremendously speed up the healing process and the return to normalcy.

Life is challenging, vulnerable and often very unfair. In times such as these, it becomes even more important for communities to come together and work from crisis to recovery, giving people the needed support to heal and prevail through a trauma. With that, many may be able to find the courage and strength they need to live life with meaning and happiness again.

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Radhika Vachani is the author of Just Breathe, a motivational speaker, a Yoga and holistic wellness expert, and the Founder of Yogacara Healing Arts in Mumbai, India. A devoted student of the Iyengar school of Yoga for more than 15 years, Radhika quit her successful corporate career in San Francisco to start Yogacara in 2010, after experiencing life-transforming changes through the practices of Iyengar Yoga, Ayurveda and meditation. Connect with Radhika at and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
image 1:  Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons BY-SA); image 2: University of the Fraser Valley (Creative Commons BY)