THE BLOG
04/17/2013 09:46 am ET | Updated Jun 17, 2013

The Boston Marathon Tragedy: How to Cope

Dani Meier

As the horrific images and details continue to emerge from Boston, millions are struggling with how to wrap our heads around such senseless brutality, such blind disregard for human life. Most of us have become numb to daily bombings in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, to indiscriminate death and destruction around the world. That's "over there."

Today, Boylston Street might as well be Main Street in any city in America. And the Boston Marathon might as well be our local Little League tournament. Or the county fair. Or prom. As with 9/11, this feels intensely personal. This is here. This is home. In the relentless video loops, we see ourselves in the faces of survivors: scared, bewildered, bloody.

We like to think of ourselves as a nation of doers, of action-takers. But at this writing, barely 14 hours after the bombs ripped through the crowds, we don't know who is responsible. Domestic or foreign? Individual or group? No clue. Let's hope that we find out soon, that the perpetrators are brought to justice, and that we'll learn to better prevent such attacks in the future.

But what do we do now, for God's sake? How do we wake to a new day and move forward? What do we say to ourselves, to each other, to our children?

Sadly, no explanation can make sense of this mindless devastation. Nonetheless, there are some things we can do to take care of ourselves and to take care of each other.

  1. We can recognize that this kind of event often taps memories of past losses, previous experiences of violence, other ways that we feel unsafe or insecure about life. We can give ourselves the space to be upset and the time necessary to reestablish equilibrium.
  2. We can talk. Venting feelings of distress is critical. Too many of us feel we have to be strong, hold everything in, and deal with hardship alone. It's better to reach out: to a friend, family member, counselor, clergy. Someone we trust. Handling things on our own can be isolating. And isolation makes things worse.
  3. If someone seeks our support, we don't need magic words to give them. There are none. It's one of the painful facts of life that life can be terribly unfair.
  4. Listening, empathizing, and just being there is what's needed. It can be like throwing a life preserver to a person in distress. It can literally save lives. Be present, be supportive, be reassuring.
  5. We can comfort children, as well, by sharing the truth: that despite the presence of tragedy and evil, the world is filled with good, loving people. And that we will do whatever is necessary to protect them and keep them surrounded by love.
  6. We can get off the couch. Physical exercise is one of the most effective anti-depressants and stress relievers out there. Find ways to be active, walking, biking, or hitting the gym. Turn up the music, pull down the shades, and dance. Just get up and move.
  7. We can commit acts of kindness. Doing things to help others can remind us of the good in the world and of our capacity to make the world a better place despite tragedy and hardship.
  8. We can get professional help if problems persist in ourselves or in those we care about. This doesn't mean we are crazy or weak, just that we may need a little help. We all need a hand now and then. There's nothing wrong with that.

This is a blow to us all about how fragile life can be. But we are a resilient lot. You'll get through this. We all will. Together.

Peace.

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