Editor’s note: Dammit. We hate that we’ve been moved to resurface this story. But after the tragedy in Las Vegas, we feel the need. Hang in there, people. We’re not sure what else to say. 

The past couple years have been packed with brutal shocks, and last night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas is one of the most shocking—and tragic. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of all the victims, as we simultaneously hope and pray that this kind of shit will just. fucking. stop.

But beyond those sentiments, how the hell else are we supposed to cope?

It’s really hard to say, so we tracked down an expert to help us make sense of things. Below, Dr. Kenneth Doka, who has published nearly three dozen books on grief, explains why you shouldn’t look away and offers a five-part framework to ensure you don’t give up on the world, no matter how out of control it seems.

It’s worth remembering that very often the actual data is less scary than your initial impressions, and by taking the time to learn you’ll feel better, not worse.

1. Why You Feel This Way About Shit
Horrific incidents can traumatize those who aren’t directly involved, don’t know anyone directly involved and, indeed, may have never even visited the place where the tragedy occurred. For example, many people who never plan to go to Turkey were unsettled by last July’s airport attack, which left at least 42 dead.

“Maybe they don’t go to Turkey but they do fly,” Doka observes. “If the airport can be attacked, they can be attacked. They may not even be able to acknowledge that on a conscious level. That’s the heart of trauma, really. It makes the world suddenly seem unsafe.”

2. Assess Shit
When a development makes you feel powerless or overwhelmed, Doka’s first step is a simple one: “Take a breath.”

Once you feel like you’re settled down, then face the issue: “Acknowledge it and then evaluate it: Is this really a danger?”

For instance, let’s say you’re worried about being the victim of a terrorist attack. In 2013, 17,891 people died in terrorist attacks. In 2014, that number went up to 32,658.

That’s an increase of over 80 percent, by any measure a disturbing trend.

However, there are more than 7.3 billion people on Earth. (To put this massive figure in perspective, one percent of the world’s population is greater than 73 million people: roughly California, Texas and New York combined.)

In 2014, a year when terrorism surged, this was the approximate chance of getting killed by a terrorist:

0.00045 percent.

And for most of the world the actual figure is considerably lower, because 78 percent of those terrorism-related deaths occurred in just five nations: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.

Of course, terrorism tends to hit places where we want to feel entirely safe: Anything above zero is too high.

It’s still worth remembering that very often the actual data is less scary than your initial impressions, and by taking the time to learn you’ll feel better, not worse.

On a related note…

3. How the Media Reports Shit
Avian flu. Swine flu. SARS. All of these were covered like they were on the verge of decimating America.

None of them did.

Doka acknowledges that the press plays a role in “making us feel more vulnerable. It often doesn’t say the chances of getting bird flu are very, very remote, it says: ‘Bird flu case found in Michigan.’ Turns out the guy spent three weeks in China. I think in some ways the press is an amplifier.”

This doesn’t mean you should read the news less: It means you should read the news carefully. See what evidence there is for the terrifying clickbait headline and then see how they actually sourced that evidence.

In general: If the article doesn’t cite specific figures, link to other resources, or feature quotes from named sources with a clear connection to the discussed events, stay skeptical, not scared.

4. Talk About Shit
“I think it always is good just to honestly explore how you’re feeling with somebody, whether it’s a therapist or somebody else,” Doka says.

The most important conversations you will have about the world’s horrors are with your children. How should they be handled?

Dr. Doka encourages letting them bring it up: If they don’t seem interested in talking yet, don’t force it. And when they do get curious…

“After 9/11, I was asked that question: ‘What if your child asks if it could happen again?’ My answer was: ‘I would talk about all the things we’re doing to try to keep it from happening again: We hope not, and we’re doing this now with airplanes, to try to prevent it from happening again.’ ”

Try to focus on what he calls “realistic optimism,” no matter how shitty the headlines get.

No one lives forever. This isn’t a reason to slip into despair or an excuse to live a life of wild nihilism because, hey, gonna die anyway: It is simply a fact.

5. What If Shit Still Scares You?
Not all problems go away when you calm down and take a closer look. For instance, the abysmal handling of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan by Governor Rick Snyder horrified our nation.

Guess what? It’s not an isolated problem: One in 18 Americans lives in a community where water systems are in violation of the law. They aren’t necessarily in actual danger, but there’s no particular reason to think they’re safe.

You can try to find out if you’re that one in 18 and then attempt to move to cleaner waters (assuming you can locate them), but ultimately Doka says there comes a point where you have to acknowledge you’ve done all you can: “I think sometimes it’s even more just an attitude of making the recognition that life has risks.”

No one lives forever. This isn’t a reason to slip into despair or an excuse to live a life of wild nihilism because, hey, gonna die anyway: It is simply a fact.

Ultimately, a person needs to accept that they understand the challenges they’re facing, they’ve done what they can to deal with them, and there are simply some things beyond their control.

“You cannot live a risk-free life,” Doka concludes. “Life is risk.”

Photos: Getty/David Becker/Stringer

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