How Tragedy Affects Everyone Differently -- and How You Can Help Each Other
"In the wake of these tragedies, I'm inspired to see a renewed sense of patriotism from many people. But some of the people I work with and talk to seem to be returning to ‘normal’ with ease, and I don't understand how they are doing it. I understand we all need to get back to work, and we can't immerse ourselves in sadness and anger. But I’ve heard a lot of people saying, ‘Well, I'm not going to watch any more of it -- there's nothing I can do about it anyway.’ They are saying that it's sad but that they are sick of hearing about it and have stopped watching TV because of it. As a result, they don't seem to know what's going on and are forming their opinions without the proper information. It makes me mad.
"I feel we owe it to the people who died to hear their stories and to remember these past few days for the rest of our lives. When I feel tempted to complain about high gas prices or inconveniences due to high security, I want to remember the sight of those buildings crumbling and the faces of the people who even now are looking for loved ones. I want to remember the stories of the firemen and the people who witnessed it and who lost friends and family. When Americans are dying during the next few months and we start to lose heart, I want to remember what we are fighting for. How can I express this to people who are younger than I am, and who don't seem to care much about anything but their own lives?"
It is of the utmost importance to understand that during a time of shocking change and loss, each individual will, and must, respond differently. We all have our own coping mechanisms and defenses. What might look like callous disregard can simply be someone’s attempt to defend against tremendous pain and shock until he or she can truly absorb it.
Do not judge other people’s ways of responding during this difficult time. Some are in shock, and the first stage of shock is often denial. They are desperate to have things become normal and stable again, and in an attempt to do this -- and to protect their own psychological balance -- will resume their routines as if nothing has happened. Little by little, when they can absorb it, they will respond to all they have seen.
Others respond by jumping into action, doing all they can to give and to help. This is a way of dealing with their own sense of helplessness, and allows them to feel as though they can make a difference during these terrible times.
Some respond with easy rage and anger, lashing out at everyone and everything. This is generated by the fear they are feeling, and the sense that life will never be normal again.
Others grieve openly, and want to look at faces and pictures and hear discussions over and over again. This is their way of absorbing the shock they have been through. Some want to bond and be close, to reaffirm human ties. Others withdraw for their own emotional protection, so as not to have to deal with additional disappointment and loss.
Of course, we must never and can never forget the horror that has happened and the pain of the victims. We must stay firm in our resolve to combat terrorism in all its forms. One of the best ways of doing this is becoming respectful of one another, and of the differences between us as well as the similarities. We must give each person the space and opportunity to deal with this issue in their own way.
Blessings to all,
Dr. Brenda ShoshannaAnswer: