The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday September 28th

Grieving Students Find Different Ways To Cope With Trauma

"I don't know if my life's really changed, but the grief of everyone else got to me," Syreeta Alston, a sophomore from Rocky Mount, said Thursday.

Other students said they felt their safety had been put in jeopardy. "(Terrorism) happens to other countries all the time, but you don't think it would happen to us," said junior Kia Benton, from Greensboro. "That really affected me."

In addition to no longer feeling as safe, Kathleen Richards, a sophomore from Goldsboro, said she was concerned about what might happen next.

"Everyone wants to retaliate, and I'm a little confused because I'm not sure that's the right way," she said.

John Edgerly, director of UNC Counseling and Psychological Service, said the center has seen an influx of students in the last few days.

"I've been at other schools in the past where we have that kind of traffic, but not at Carolina," said Edgerly, who has worked at UNC for 19 years.

CAPS, which offers walk-in counseling for students, has also posted on its Web site nine tips for dealing with traumatic stress. Edgerly said these tips are a good general set of suggestions, though CAPS can provide more specific help to students on a case-by-case basis.

One of CAPS' tips is to talk about the trauma, advice many students are taking. "Hearing other people's stories makes you realize how lucky you are," Benton said.

For some, keeping abreast of the news was another method of coping. "Keeping myself informed helps me deal with it," said Jonah Turner, a senior from Raleigh. "If you deal with the problem, it's a lot easier to heal than trying to hide it."

But not all students have maintained a vigil in front of CNN. CAPS' tips actually suggest people maintain a normal routine to create "psychological distance" between themselves and the traumatic event. "I watched the news for the first couple days," Alston said. "Now I've just been trying not to think about it. I don't know if it's actually healthy, but it makes it seem far away and not so close to me."

Many students also found the campus gathering Wednesday helped them deal with their grief. "I think it was a good chance to put in words what everyone was feeling," said sophomore Scott Plumer. "It was a really good outlet instead of sitting in your room and watching the TV."

Edgerly said all these methods of coping are healthy. "Everyone is going to react differently," he said. "There's no wrong way."

Although one of CAPS' tips is to actively do something about the trauma, Plumer said he was frustrated.

"There's nothing you can do here," he said. "You can just show your support and give blood and try to understand the kind of world we live in where this can happen."

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