The terrorist attack on our country has left us stunned, saddened and disoriented. This event was life changing for America, and for each of us on a personal level. Although most other countries in the world have endured terrorism and war, never before have we been invaded in this manner and magnitude. Many of us bhave lost our feeling of safety.
What can we do? What can we learn? How can we heal? And what kind of stress symptoms should we expect or watch for?
What can we do?
Turning sadness and helplessness into action is an important part of the healing process. Lighting a candle, giving blood, and other simple everyday acts of kindness are immediately healing to ourselves and those we come in contact with during this period of change. Reach out to your community, call your friends and relatives. Connect into the fabric of life surrounding you. While reaching out and connecting is always a necessary part of mental health, we easily forget that these loving connections are what give our lives meaning.
What can we learn from others?
Reflecting on what we can control, and what we cannot, is frightening, but important for our mental health.
Living with courage, with “heart,” as the French derivation of the word implies, is our only option if we are not to fall into fearing to live our lives at all. This amounts to looking at what kind of person you want to be in the life that you have, the time you are alive on this earth.
One of my clients was a prisoner of war for six years during World War II. He never believed he would live to have a future. His life was spared and he went on to raise a family and become an important and contributing part of his community. He see every day as a gift. He values each sunrise and sunset.
Living life with more vigor, passion and commitment is paramount to fighting terrorism, whether it is external or internal demons that haunt you. Consider using this period of anguish and disorientation to identify your priorities and question whether you are living your life in line with what you value. Do not shy away from expressing yourself politically and in other external ways, seeking to make a positive difference in the world.
A tragedy like this brings death closer to our awareness. Living with death by our side is said to bring out the best in us and our appreciation of what life offers.
Take time to reflect on the acts of kindness and generosity possible in your daily life, and your experience of connectedness to and caring for others. After all, love was a focus of the personal calls of the victims of this tragedy ... calling those dear to them, and telling them they loved them. In their last moments on earth they were expressing what was most important to them.