Feelings of fear, grief and vulnerability are to be expected in the wake of tragedies like the deadly shooting in Fredericton, N.B., experts say.

Four people, including two police officers, were killed Friday when they were hit with bullets from a long gun fired from an elevated vantage point, officials say. Matthew Vincent Raymond has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

As police try to piece together everything that happened, many people unconnected to the shootings may find themselves upset without understanding why.

Oren Amitay, a Toronto-based clinical psychologist, says those feelings should not come as a surprise.

“When members of our community … are taken in such a terrible way, it affects everybody. On some level, they feel equally as vulnerable,” he told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

Amitay said those feelings of insecurity may be particularly prevalent in places like Fredericton, where murders and gun crime are relatively rare.

“When something is completely surprising or out of character from what you’re expecting, it has a greater impact,” he said.

“People will feel shaken to their core. When you do not have this inherent sense of ‘I will be OK day-to-day,’ it is terrifying for most people.”

Those thoughts may be happening at a subconscious level, Amitay said, with people only knowing that they are feeling unusually on edge or anxious, but not knowing why.

The Canadian Mental Health Association offers advice on moving through grief, including:

  • Recognizing and sharing feelings of grief, perhaps by keeping a journal or connecting with caring and supportive people
  • Understanding that temporary changes such as feeling less engaged with work or increased isolation are part of the grieving process
  • Paying attention to physical health as well as mental health
  • Waiting until grief has subsided before making major life decisions

When it comes to helping children work through grief, the CMHA recommends being up-front with them about what has happened and what feelings the events may evoke, and encouraging them to share their feelings.

Amitay echoes that advice, saying children will pick up on the behavior of the adults in their lives and adjust their own reactions accordingly.

“If their family is acting in a very anxious and scared way, the children will internalize that,” he said.

“If, however, the parents reassure them … it will have a lesser impact on the children.”