Still, there are some practical things you can do if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Dr. Ariane Thomas is a clinical psychologist and a lecturer in educational practice at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. She said one thing people can do is lean into the hope of this moment. Another is to talk about those other feelings and lean into their complexity.
“Let’s not pretend like we’re not experiencing this,” she said. “Let’s actually talk about it. Let’s talk about the joy, but also the continued fear, the resentment of having to experience any of this at all, and the worry that so frequently we experience after moments like this that the energy and intentionality around making real meaningful change will wane when people have seen one outcome like this.”
Also, the Chauvin verdict doesn’t mean Black Americans will wake up to a new country, said Thomas and James. Racism and bias won’t suddenly be a problem of the past.
James said while some people will need to take a moment for themselves to breathe, cry, and process the emotions, others may process their feelings by helping others, including children, understand the significance of the Chauvin verdict.
“A lot of people — Black folks, people in marginalized status — sometimes have to educate those who are in the dominant group, whatever that group might be, and sometimes that’s just overwhelming,” said James. “But there are moments that you can say, like, you know, it feels good to be able to say, let me explain why this is important. And then with children, you might be able to say, ‘Hey, son. Hey, daughter. This is why this is meaningful for us or meaningful for me.’”
And don’t hesitate to seek professional help, added Thomas.
“What we’re dealing with right now is nothing short of a simple phenomenon,” she said. “It’s what we will be known for as generations who went through COVID and a racial reckoning or the beginnings of it, or the continuation of it — however you want to conceptualize it. But all of this put together is simply something that will, it’s going to be a sort of an identifier for folks who lived through this, and we don’t really know what the mental health impacts are on us.”
Philadelphia leaders recognized the potential for retraumatization brought on by the Chauvin trial and put out a new toolkit for creating safe spaces, which includes links to mental health resources. The city is also hosting a series of confidential “Community Healing Circles.”
The virtual events will take place over the next three weeks.
In its inaugural session Monday, attendees shared the range of emotions Thomas and James described, some going so far as saying they expected to remain feeling hopeless regardless of the verdict.
But several expressed feeling better after an hour of sharing their feelings and hearing they were not alone.
By the end of the session, when the facilitator asked what residents could do to make themselves feel cared for, someone said, “I can give myself time to heal.”
By Ximena Conde
George James, Jr., PsyD, LMFT is a Senior Staff Therapist at our University City and Blue Bell Offices. He currently sees clients via online therapy. To set up an appointment, you can reach him at email@example.com or 215-382-6680 ext. 4128.