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Local health experts talk about coping with tragedy

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - In the wake of the largest mass shooting on American soil, the tragedy in Orlando is weighing on some in in the Star City. The LGBT community in Roanoke is rallying together to support one another. Local psychiatrists told WSLS 10 coping with tragedy can take time.

Bernard Alvarez, the vice-chairman of the Roanoke Diversity Center, said it's been an emotionally draining week.

"We're allowed to grieve, we're allowed to be sad, that were allowed to cry, and we don't need to be strong," Alvarez told us. "This is something that's affected the LBGT community around the world."

Alvarez told us his phone has been ringing nonstop as community members are reaching out to him for guidance and comfort following the mass shooting.

"I've heard many things from anger, depression and misunderstanding," commented Alvarez.

Doctor Thomas Milam with Carilion Clinic said those reactions are all normal -- not everybody copes in the same way. The first step in grieving is disbelief and shock.

"The second stage people go into is mood stage: anger, sadness, and anxiety," said Milam. "That's a very vulnerable stage. Helping people talk through some of that to process the anger, to be there for one another, to listen to friends and colleagues is very important."

Grieving himself and trying to help others at the same time, Alvarez said it's all about finding balance. To keep his mind occupied, Alvarez is busy helping others cope.

"Being able to share compassion and empathy with other people has made it a much smoother crisis to go through," said Alvarez.

Both Alvarez and Milam agree it's best to communicate with others and open a dialogue. That can be a friend, community leader or religious leader.

Milam added the last stage to heal is acceptance.

This week the Roanoke Diversity Center is holding several peer counseling groups for those seeking emotional support. And if needed, doctors recommend professional counseling.