We are once again faced with the darkness of another tragedy: the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Events like this inevitably bring up our past traumas, leading to feelings of deep sadness, and often confronted by some of our unfettered grief. There is also a huge sense of confusion when we are faced with the unanswerable question of “Why?”
As parents, it is important to be transparent and honest with our kids in times like this. This does not mean sharing gruesome photographs of the event with them or feeding them gory details. Talking to our kids and allowing them to have a voice in a traumatic time is important. When the bombing at the Boston Marathon happened, we sat down with our son and talked to him about it. We wanted to make sure he heard it from us and not from the rumor mill of middle school, where hyperbole and fear mongering are the norm. He felt shock, confusion, and sadness. For parents, it was and continues to be our responsibility to honor the feelings of our kids and provide a safe container for them to express themselves. The world can be a scary place, especially with the effects of random acts of violence. Our son had many questions about what happened in Boston, many of which mirrored the questions of so many—kids and adults alike: “Am I safe?” “Why is there so much violence?” “Why would someone do that?” “Should I be worried?” “Will it happen here?” It’s important that his questions are answered and that he is allowed to process what he’s heard, lest we create another environment of trauma.
The tragedy those in Boston are confronted with never should have happened; but it did. It is real and it is heinous. Those directly affected by the devastation at the Boston Marathon will have deep trauma and grief to process and they will need support. When I see and hear of things this atrocious, I am reminded of a few things we can and should do in times like this:
- lean into our circles of support,
- be of service,
- remember and honor those thrust into sudden loss and tragedy of senseless acts of violence.
- Look at the positive: the people helping, the survivors, the community that reaches out to strangers.
In his book Trauma-Proofing Your Kids Dr. Peter Levine talks about the ways Somatic Experiencing is used in a crisis. Somatic Experiencing is focused on “symptom relief and in resolving the underlying ‘energy’ that feeds those symptoms.” (p.214) Instead of asking kids to “tell the story” of what happened, they are asked to share their “post-event difficulties,” i.e., the physical or emotional fall-out they are experiencing after the event occurred. For example: fatigue, headaches, difficulty sleeping or eating, stomach aches, spaciness, emotional numbing, worry, guilt, et cetera. The goal is not to re-traumatize the individual, but to help the process of self-regulation and emotional discharge.
Please make sure you are getting what you need if you are experiencing emotional difficulty since the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. If you find that you are having a hard time:
- Take a break from the media.
- Do some movement: jump rope, hike, do yoga, just move your body.
- Be kind to yourself.
“Trauma can be prevented or transformed; it does not have to be a life sentence.”