Pulse nightclub shooting survivors face years of finding 'new normal'

ORLANDO - Monday marks one year since the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

For the survivors, it has been a year full of pain and figuring out how to go on, and what their "new normal" lives look like.

Ricardo Negron was at Pulse the morning of June 12, 2016.

He was not physically hurt, but like hundreds of others, he carries scars that can't be seen. They are felt constantly.

"There's pre-Pulse Ricardo, and post-Pulse Ricardo in terms of what I do with my life," he said.

That includes his personal and professional life.

Negron now heads up Proyecto Somos Orlando, which offers counseling and support for families in the Hispanic community affected by the Pulse shooting.

He says personally, he has good days and bad. But with the one-year mark approaching, mental health experts say many survivors will have a hard time.

"Some people who feel like they have moved on effectively will find that they probably haven’t done as well as they thought," said Dr. David Baker-Hargrove. "Some people will be ok and some people will be re-triggered and be devastated just by everyone talking about it."

Baker-Hargrove has worked with the LGBTQ community in the Orlando area for decades. He has counseled many survivors of the Pulse shooting.

"The biggest problem that we have when we have a traumatic event is we want to go back to 'normal,'" he said. "There is no normal again ever in the way that it existed before. It's really the discovery of what the new normal is."

It took months for Negron to get to the point he's at now - able to talk about what happened that night. He says it's because of the counseling he's sought out, and because his family is there to support him.

Negron and Baker-Hargrove say there are some people who are having to cope with their trauma who haven't been able to rely on family members.

"Some people have not been able to tell their families that they were there because their families would not be as accepting," Negron said.

Baker-Hargrove says people in the LGBTQ community already face more trauma and stress in their lives because of their identity.

"For something like this to come along it wreaks havoc with their lives," he said.

Baker-Hargrove says everyone's recovery will be different, but everyone's will be years-long.

Negron says he plans on being at some of the memorial services on June 12, but may leave if he feels it's too much.

"I feel that it will be way overwhelming," he said. "So I'm looking to, after all this is done, I'll be taking some days to recoup."

The city of Orlando has an entire day of memorials and remembrance services scheduled for what it is calling "Orlando United: A Day of Love and Kindness."

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