For the past few weeks I’ve met with clients experiencing profound dread and sadness about the upcoming tenth anniversary of 9/11. What has compounded it has been the onslaught of terrible news about extreme flooding in the Northeast, wildfires and widespread loss of homes in Texas, the tragic plane crash in Russia, the Seven Eleven slaughter, the rising suicide rate in Japan, and many, many other reports of horrific events and developments.
In the case of the 9/11 anniversary, we can at least take solace in the solidarity of national grieving and memorials. We validate each other around the pain and loss. Together we prepare for the “anniversary effect” – revisiting the traumatic images and memories imprinted in our brains. We unite in the healing process. We try to make sense of what happened.
Unfortunately, we’re left to our own defenses around the other daily, tragic events. Clients and friends say they feel helpless, alone, and increasingly anxious in an unsafe world.
There is no magic formula for dealing with all this. Even people of deep religious faith feel profoundly tested in the face of such daily tragedy. What helps me is to surround myself with love, to remind myself of the essential goodness of people, and the joys of life. I also focus on the small things I can do, to mitigate against feelings of helplessness regarding all the trauma. Going into meaningful action, being present in the grace of the moment, and making heartfelt connections, are my medicines for staying sturdy in such turbulent times. But it’s also helpful to honor the grief and sadness, and sometimes just cry.
We’ve all been glued to our TV’s watching the devastation to lives and landscape after the tornado in Missouri. It’s been equally as amazing to see the resolve and resilience of the victims in their determination to rebuild their lives and their community! They do some things which I think are critical to psychological and physical reconstruction, and which we could all take as important examples for “moving on” after any trauma:
- They grieve their losses together.
- They value what’s most important from the wreckage.
- They celebrate what’s indestructible – the bonds with loved ones.
- They help each other to take the beginning steps of rebuilding.
- They share their stories.
- They ask for help.
Hats off to the people of Missouri for their model of courage, determination, and humanity in this crisis!
What a sad time this is for thousands of people who went about their business on an ordinary Sunday, and found themselves homeless, surrounded by death, and utter destruction later that evening! Even though few of us can begin to imagine the horror they endured, most of us can connect with the idea that life is fragile, and that nothing is a “given”.
The tragedy made me think about not only the heroism and resilience of the human spirit we all witness in these events, but also the sacred bonds we have with each other. As a therapist and coach, I work with people every day to help them actively cherish these bonds. I also ask myself if I too, have cherished my precious relationships, or taken them for granted lately?
I encourage anyone who loves someone, or many “someone’s”, to imagine that a tornado like the one in Missouri could be headed in your direction. Whom would you protect? What last minute bargain would you be making with the Universe or your own conception of God, regarding what you promise you’d do differently, given another chance? Would you love better? Would you be kinder? Would you tune in more? Would you stop to smell the roses? Then proceed to live your life more mindfully and open-heartedly “in the path of the tornado”.
What a couple of weeks! Osama Bin Laden dead, (finally), Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver divorcing after 25 years of marriage and four kids, and the flooding all along the Mississippi River! It feels like the world has turned upside down at times like this! It can shake up everything we take for granted, like a safe home, and a loving, lasting marriage, and a safe world. It can also create “compassion fatigue”, that numbing that happens around constant catastrophic news, a feeling of dread — (what about Bin Laden’s son on the loose, seeking vengeance, what now?), and “survivor guilt” related to living personally unscathed by devastation.
My personal remedy to combat the toxic effects of all this is to:
- Limit exposure to the news!
- Engage in activities and contacts which foster faith in mankind.
- Help others in need, so you feel like you make a difference.
- Breathe deeply, watch your catastrophic thoughts, and redirect to benign ones.
- Practice gratitude mindfulness. Appreciate your health, loved ones, and your freedom!
I hope it helps just a bit,
PS. Tune in to my BlogTalk Radio show for the upcoming episode called “Sane Divorce – Yes, You Do Have Choices”, featuring New Hampshire attorney Honey Hastings, author of “The New Hampshire Divorce Handbook”, and co-founder of The Collaborative Law Alliance Of New Hampshire. It should be a very interesting and informative show! You can call in live and toll-free Wednesday, May 18th at 9PM EST at 877-497-9046. Don’t miss it, especially if you’re facing a divorce!
We’ve all been glued to our TVs, watching with horror the unfolding tragedy in Japan in the aftermath of their most powerful earthquake ever. As I write this, I dread finding out about the death toll, the human suffering, and the likelihood of a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant. Some of the aftershocks of the earthquake have also been huge with as yet an unknown toll on life and the Japanese landscape, and infrastructure.
I’ve been thinking about the dread and anxiety related to aftershocks, as a kind of re-traumatization. It’s reminded me about “aftershocks” in marriage and partnerships, and how an initial traumatizing event tends to reverberate in a way which can be entirely overwhelming, as I imagine the aftershocks are for the Japanese now. (I’m aware that a life or death catastrophic event is, in many ways incomparable in the degree of suffering to an event which is emotionally traumatic). The concept of “aftershock”, however, is familiar to anyone who’s spouse has had an affair, leaving a residual breach of trust, and “reverberations” in the way of new information about the marital history, which contradict history as it has been known. My work with couples who are wrestling with some emotionally devastating event, often centers on these “aftershocks” and how they jar the landscape of a marriage.
For anyone who is trying to repair the damage caused by some emotional or trust breach, my hope is that you appreciate the devastating impact of these “aftershocks”, and that you don’t rush to closure for your own purposes.
With much sadness,