After the tragedy that occurred in Itaewon, many within Korea’s foreign community have been left traumatized, grieving, and just trying to process everything that has happened. For many, this is the first time they’ve experienced a community tragedy, largely without family members and their usual support system by their side. However, you are not alone, we are all going to get through this together.
When a community tragedy occurs, you will find many people around you going through each of the stages of grief. Sometimes people have difficulty getting through these stages and they can seem insensitive. You may even feel angered, disgusted, or resent others due to their behavior while grieving. Here is a little bit of insight so that you can be better prepared for what you are seeing within the community.
Grief Stage 1: Denial
Denial isn’t always just pretending what happened didn’t occur. It’s also sometimes shock, feelings of disbelief, or emotional numbness.
Right after the tragedy, we saw this play out in a number of ways. Many who didn’t fully accept what happened went on with partying, even moving to other districts to do so. Some in their emotional numbness shared horrifying videos. Others, in shock, repetitively watched the horrifying footage.
Grief Stage 2: Anger
Many are now moving on to anger. If you can’t stand the fall foliage videos or are outraged by the images people are posting of enjoying Halloween celebrations, you’re probably at this stage.
It’s completely normal to have these feelings and you should let them out if you feel you need to. However, it is important to remember that there are people on the other side of the screen. Don’t type your anger out in a comment and press send. Hurting others for their happiness isn’t the right way to process these emotions. Instead, talk out what you are feeling with friends. Or, you can try other things like writing them out on paper.
Grief Stage 3: Bargaining
Bargaining is the stage where regret and self-blaming start to form. You may feel guilty about the event itself, or your behaviors during the grieving process.
It’s important to remember during this stage that the event was bigger than you. Nothing you personally could have done could have prevented it. As for your response, everyone grieves in their own way. If you hurt others, you can always go apologize and learn from the experience.
Grief Stage 4: Depression
When you experience depression, it is important to reach out to others in the community and/or seek professional help. You may withdraw from others, or start to feel your own mortality deeply. It can be difficult to continue with daily life at this stage.
If you need some time off, take it, if you need counseling, seek it. And, if you are unable to take the rest you need, you may need to see a doctor and go on some medication for a while so that you can get through the day. Do what you need to to take care of yourself
Grief Stage 5: Acceptance
Acceptance isn’t always about being ok or back to normal. Events like this can permanently change us. It can just be about finding constructive ways to cope, getting on with life, or finding a new normal.
Mental Health Resources in Korea for Foreigners
- Counsel 24: 1566-2525 (English, Korean)
- Lifeline Korea: 1588-9191 (English)
- Ministry of Health and Welfare Call Center: 129 (English, Korean)
- Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1393 (English, Korean)
Professional Counseling for Foreigners in Seoul
To learn more about the Seoul Global Center’s free counseling services, Click Here.
Professional Counseling in Other Regions
- Psychiatric Clinic (정신건강의학과의원): These clinics have doctors that can diagnose conditions and prescribe medications.
- Psychological Counseling Center (심리상담센터): These centers have mental health professionals who provide mental health counseling and therapy. They cannot prescribe medication or diagnose conditions.
Over the Counter Medication
You can get low-dose anti-anxiety medication, anti-depressants, and sleeping pills without a prescription in Korea. You can go to any pharmacy (약국) and say the following:
- Antidepressant: 항우울제
- Depression: 우울중
- Anti-Anxiety Medication: 항불안제
- Anxiety: 불안증
- Sleeping medication: 수면제
How to Physically Manage Anxiety
- Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth, each breath concentrate on slowing your breathing, focusing on moving your chest.
- Then continue breathing, but focus on extending your abdomen with breaths in.
- Sit comfortably and calm your breathing
- Lift your toes off the floor while keeping your heels on the ground.
- With your feet flat, press down with your toes and lift them up.
- form a fist and squeeze, one hand at a time
- Sit straight, pull your arms close to your sides, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Slowly lower your shoulders while exhaling.
- Swivel your head left and right to stretch out your neck.
- Next, to release tension in your face, start with a one-sided smile on each side. Then, relax your mouth and raise your eyebrows.