We are now almost two weeks into the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. There are many theories about what happened, but sadly few answers.
For the families of passengers, the pain is palpable. They are desperate for answers. It's heartbreaking. As someone who has spent a lifetime in the field of grief, I can tell you that handling unanswered questions is enormously difficult.
I've also worked extensively with disaster relief -- after multiple aviation crashes, Sandy Hook and 911. And I've experienced it personally. I had a friend on the American Airline flight that hit the Twin Towers. Despite what I knew was realistic, I found myself hoping against hope to find her body. That never happened.
Right now the focus is on finding answers. The longer we go without answers the more unsettling the situation becomes. What happens if the answers revealed never paint a clear picture? How do we as a society deal with that kind of uncertainty?
We don't want to live in a world where planes go missing. It's terrifying. We want to know that planes are safe, schools are safe and we can run a marathon without fear of dying.
How do we cope with modern threats to our world? How do we calm our worried minds?
No one has a one-size-fits-all solution, but these four strategies are the best place I know to start:
1. Separate what's possible from what's probable. Yes, we live in a world where bad things are possible. But the reality is that thousands of flights reach their destinations safely each day. Remember that it is most probable that your plane is going to get where it's going, the marathon is going to happen without a hitch and your kids' day at school is safe.
2. Tune out, if it's too much. Be aware of how endless news coverage impacts you. For some people, news is fascinating. They want to keep up with every new development. For others, the nonstop coverage of a tragic situation just makes them more anxious. If you are in the later category, give yourself permission to tune out. Redirect your focus to what calms you.
3. Do your best to contain fear around your children. Remember that children overhear us and they feel our anxiety. Your kids may hold onto that fear for months or even years -- long after you have moved on. For example, by the time your next family trip comes around, your fears about what happened to flight 370 will likely be greatly reduced. But your child may still be remembering your concerns. Try to keep your fears amongst adults and reassure your children that they are safe.
4. Feel empowered by helping others. Nobody wants to feel powerless. You can't change the situation, but if you take action, you will feel more in control. Give a donation to the Red Cross. Volunteer at a local charity. Say a prayer for the families. I, like you, am keeping them close to my heart.
Ultimately we realize that fear doesn't stop death. Fear stops life. Keep living.