Being a Social Worker in the Wake of a Tragedy


To me, being a social worker in the wake of a tragedy, leads me to feel somewhat differently than many of the general population.  This is true especially in the aftermath of a violent crime.  While, like many, I feel for the victims and their families, their friends.  However, I also can’t help but feel empathetic towards the perpetrator, their family, their friends.  I can’t help but wonder, what happened?  While I do believe everyone ultimately is in charge of their own destiny to a certain degree, I can’t help but wonder…what else?  What else was behind this event, from the perpetrator’s perspective.  Was it mental illness?  Perhaps psychosis related to a mental illness, such as paranoid schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder?  Perhaps, this individual suffered some type of trauma in their life that left them confused, and unable to cope?  And what about their family?  The undoubted hate mail, threats, shame, and guilt that follows such a tragic event, just for being related to this individual.  The love and conflict that they must know feel, as this individual played an important role in their lives, but hating the actions they took, and the impact that it has or will have on them forever.

These thoughts and feelings that I have, they are not meant to sleight the many victims and their families.  I feel for them also, for their loss, for their struggle, their recovery moving forward.  This is not meant to be a mockery of their struggle.

I cannot imagine I am the only one that feels this way, it seems innate, as a human services professional, however, I feel very few individuals will embrace these feelings and speak of them aloud.  If you agree, you are not alone, and it is ok to feel this way.

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2 responses to “Being a Social Worker in the Wake of a Tragedy

  • Small Town Rockstar

    I feel for the family and friends of the shooter, but I have much contempt and incandescent rage in my overall feelings for the shooter to feel anything else. It goes back to every killer… no, animal… (there really is no politically correct word to sugarcoat the BS with) that has taken innocent lives of people, one must wonder how their family and friends feel, and like the conflict you mention.

    Oftentimes, a question is asked, “So, if you loved a person that went out and committed a senseless violent act upon a horde of people, would you still feel like they are killers or monsters?” The impulsive answer is no, but the hypothetical question is an all-too played out and far-fetched one, if you ask me. Justice will be served, and I hope this cruel thing will receive what he deserves. What does he deserve? We will all find out. Son, brother, man, boy, child, whatever one would like to call him, he did the crime and now he has to do the time. But to go out and do what he did, something was wrong with him in the head, and it’s caused a tremendous amount of heartbreak all around.

    Not to get into a debate about gun laws or anything, but I wonder if this thing was antisocial or what have you. Reason being, it’s said that if there were strict gun laws that people would get them via underground means by dim street corners and such, but if this guy — just like many of these killers — is antisocial, he’d be too afraid to converse to the point of illegally obtaining a weapon to go forward with massacres like this.

    Like I said, I feel awful for his family and other close ones for having to deal with the aftermath of something he ruthlessly did, but that’s life, and it is what it is. There’s consequences in every action, and among the people we associate ourselves with, whether we like it or not, consequences will be there, too. Not a justification but a simple reality.

    Nothing, no force, will ever be able to bring back the talented sportscaster girl that was headed for greatness, the man celebrating his 27th birthday or his impending one year marriage anniversary with his wife, the boy in the Navy, the innocent 23 year old girl, the man heroically protecting his girlfriend or the others that perished. These are the biggest tragedies of all. Real people being slaughtered by a veritable and inveterate animal, mental illness or not.

    • dayglopsycho

      Obviously, I see, understand, and completely appreciate the points you are making. That’s really not what I was trying to argue; I guess truth be told, I wasn’t trying to argue anything at all. Certainly there need to be consequences in this case and while the justice system is flawed at times, I believe that through this system, justice will be carried out in some way, shape, or form. I apologize, if I said something or indicated that we should care for the victims less; that also, was not my intent. I was simply presenting a different viewpoint, as a social worker, we are often working with what are considered “difficult” populations; registered sex offenders, individuals who have been convicted of violent crime, individuals with severe mental illness that do at times present homicidal ideation. It is from this experience that I can’t help but remember that despite these labels, these individuals are human too. They have thoughts, feelings, and people that love them, whether others would like to believe it or not.

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