Local counselor opens door to victims, witnesses of Waukesha Christmas Parade attack

NOW: Local counselor opens door to victims, witnesses of Waukesha Christmas Parade attack

WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58)-- The Waukesha community is still grieving after five people were killed and at least 48 injured during a Christmas parade on Sunday. 

A Brookfield licensed professional counselor, Rachelle Coffey, cleared her schedule and opened her door to people impacted by the traumatic incident.

The images of the red SUV racing through the parade route are triggering emotional reactions that many involved have never experienced before.

"Vicarious trauma is so detrimental, and if we don't allow ourselves to sit in the feeling that we're experiencing, even if we weren't there, then we are left stuck with those," Coffey said.

After a traumatic event, Coffey explained the brain needs to feel safe again or it's left with an underlying sense of fear.

"We just don't know how to handle it, and as humans we need support," Coffey said.

Support looks different for people. It could be talking to a friend or turning to a licensed professional for help.

"This can be quite normal for people to experience these things," Clinical Director of Trauma Recovery Services at Rogers Behavioral Health Chad Wetterneck said. "One of the key solutions will be to be able to have open conversations about it, whether it's adult to an adult or adults with their children."

Unprocessed trauma for kids can lead to years of unbalanced emotions, maladaptive behaviors and unhealthy coping skills.

Experts said it's important to let your kids speak.

"Our objective here is to try to support our children, understand what they know, and also model how to work with these thoughts and emotions that are coming up that are really difficult," Wetterneck said.

Coffey said research shows playing Tetris can help compartmentalize the brain and is used to help kids work through trauma.

There are resources in the community you can call if you need someone to talk to.

  • IMPACT 2-1-1
  • Milwaukee County Mental Health Crisis Line: 414-257-7222
  • Milwaukee County Children's Mobile Crisis Team: 414-257-7621
    • Free for children and adolescents up to age 23 seeking assistance via phone or having a resource meet them in the community
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