(Photo by Ed McClure)
Our recent years have been marred by terror. These attacks don't just happen on battlefields or in faraway countries. They happen in classrooms, movie theaters, and most recently, while crossing finish lines. They happen in spaces meant for peace, and cultivation of mind and heart--places of personal victory and strength.
When bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon this week, a coworker turned to me and said, “There’s going to come a time when people just stay inside.” Fear that we can't go out in public, or enjoy life the way we once did, is a kind of terrorist aftermath that is wide reaching. As a native of a quiet, rural Connecticut town near Newtown, I --like so many people--became intimately acquainted with the feeling of fear that trauma could occur at any moment. But after the terrorism at Sandy Hook Elementary, I learned that terror and fear does not have to win out. There are steps we can take to regain a sense of safety and peace after tragedy.
1. Don’t focus on the horror. If you keep reliving it in your mind, you’re surrendering the battleground. Terrorists want to get inside your head and plant fear. Instead of dwelling on the pain and suffering of others, focus your mental energies on reaching out to those who are suffering. Nothing cures mental agony like action.
2. Read about good things people are doing in the aftermath. When terrorist events occur the media inundates us with all of the horrible details. Try to redirect your focus on the beautiful displays of human compassion and goodness that always surface after tragedy. For instance, immediately following the Boston Marathon explosion, Boston residents opened their homes to marathoners, creating a spreadsheet of addresses that went viral. Stories like this will remind you that the world is full of generous and good-willed people.
3. Talk to someone. It doesn't matter if you are personally connected with those involved in the tragedy, we are all affected. Talk to your friends, family, or grief counselor. Allow yourself time to react, but don’t let fear fester within you.
4. Take action. Physical action helps release the emotional tension and ease some of the sense of helplessness. Volunteer somewhere in your community and allow yourself to be moved by the fact that, in serving, you are part of a larger movement of people striving for good.
5. Talk to your children. Children can pick up on tension and fear and pretending the tragic event did not happen does not make your child forget. If you have children, ask them how they are feeling and, depending on the age of your child, consult a grief counselor on the best ways to address the issue with your child. You can also visit your local school website, which often provides tips on how to speak to your child about tragedy.
6. Leave your house. Don’t allow yourself to live in fear.Take walks outside and don't stop visiting public places. Creating new happy memories outside your home is an important step to championing the fear of the unknown outside your door.
The antidote to fear can only be courage--courage to show up and be present in our lives. Take back peace and create a sense of safety in your community by focusing on the good.