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Jul 01, 2015

The ABC’s of Fireworks and Triggering

Celebrating July 4th is an American tradition complete with barbecues, parades and fireworks. It is pure summertime fun at its best. Unless you are someone who has been exposed to the impact of gun violence as a survivor of war, inner city, interpersonal or school gun violence. For you the bright light and loud booms of fireworks can trigger PTSD symptoms even for those whose exposure was many years ago. As a counselor specializing in trauma, I have learned there is no expiration date on triggering.

If you have any concerns for a loved one or client, talk to them and create a prevention plan and equally important – a recovery plan. We know that it can take a mere instant to trigger a trauma reaction but will take much longer to calm it. So, prevention is the most mindful approach. Avoid areas where you believe fireworks will be used – easier said than done. Public firework displays are scheduled and easily managed. It is the private use of fireworks throughout the neighborhood that may catch someone unaware.

I recommend the ABC’s of managing triggers. A is for creating awareness of both the problem and of the potential situations where exposure may occur. This can also include explaining the potential of triggering to friends and neighbors. B is for behavioral adjustment. Try using ear phones or ear plugs, or the air conditioner which can help muffle the sound. Stay inside if fireworks are being used in your neighborhood, seek out support if you recognize your anxiety is increasing or if you find yourself feeling jumpy. Finally, C is for change. Change your normal or usual holiday routine, change how you and your friends, family and neighbors celebrate July 4th and change the narrative of how you discuss your reactions. In my experience, most people want to support and help you prevent an unpleasant reactions. Perhaps you can use this July 4th as an opportunity to celebrate in a way that is pleasant and fun. 

Deb Del Vecchio-Scully is a counselor/trauma specialist and writer who focuses on healing the mind, body and spirit. She is currently the Clinical Recovery Leader and Trauma Specialist of the Newtown Recovery and Resilency Team serving the Sandy Hook/Newtown community and has a private practice. For more information:

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