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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Motivational Monday & Tuesday: Signs of Resilience

Thought for the Day:  This would have been my Motivational Monday's post, but I was too busy to complete it yesterday. Given the circumstances, I hope you will understand. I have a policy, whenever I can I do critical incident work following traumatic events. When Cigna EAP calls following bank robberies, deaths, & other traumatic events, I reschedule my private clients & go to help on site. I see this as preventative care & work with as many people affected by these events as I can. Last Tuesday & yesterday, I went to Boston. Here are some of my thoughts, impressions & advice from my recent experiences. I hope they will help you as well, since "We Are One Boston."

As I drove from CT to Boston, I did not know what to expect. After a week-long ordeal with tragic losses, injuries, a lock down, followed by a successful manhunt, how would the city I called home from 1981 to 2000 be handling the trauma? As I approached on the Massachusetts Turnpike, I saw the 1st sign of how Boston is coping. There were literally 4 electronic signs, the kind used to post traffic warnings, which said, “We are One Boston… Thanks for everything.”

After I exited the turnpike, I entered Newton, driving along Commonwealth Avenue, part of the route of the Boston Marathon. As I noticed the beauty of the sunlit day, the second signs appeared loud & clear. On both sides of the street there were joggers running & parents pushing carriages. It looked like any ordinary spring day in Boston. People were showing not only their relief that the terror was over,  but also their determination not to let the events stop them from living their lives fearlessly.

When I reached the infamous Heartbreak Hill, I noticed that the statue (photo above) which has honored the Boston Marathon for years had been decorated. Both bronze runners had been given number tags from this year's runners. One statue holds an American flag; the other is raising flowers. The statue pays tribute to the courage of this year's runners & is a signal to all Bostonians to carry on.

On Monday, as I drove to Norwood for the critical incident assignment, I saw more signs. While following a city bus, I noticed that intermittently, in addition to the number of the route, were the words, “We Are One Boston.” A car dealership’s sign proudly stated, “Boston Strong.” There were signs everywhere that people finding creative ways to cope, show their support & recover from the surreal events.

Yesterday, I went to a large company in the Boston area I spoke with employees from around the Boston area including Watertown. They wanted to know how to help their children, friends & themselves deal with the aftermath of a mass tragedy. Some had been at the finish line & moved seconds before the blast. They recognized the wounded as having stood beside them. I spoke about survivor’s guilt & shared ways to speak with the children who by the grace of a few seconds were saved from injury.

Some people were having trouble sleeping or fearful of going out alone. Others were struggling with memories of previous losses of loved ones from illness or violence brought back by the traumatic events. Many people wondered how to help injured friends who are still in the hospital. There were native Bostonians grieving for their city. There were also new immigrants feeling isolated,  wondering why they had come to a country beleaguered by violence.

In this day & age, whether you live in the Boston area, across the USA or abroad, we are truly. "One Boston." Television brings tragedies such as these into our homes. To a lesser degree, events like these impact on us all. We all have some survivor’s guilt & fears. It is normal to have questions about how to help family, our selves & especially our children cope with these traumatic events.

Here are some of the things I encouraged people to do:

The first & most important thing you can do is ask for support. Talk to friends & family about how you feel about what has transpired. As hard as it may be to speak about our feelings, tears, anger, disbelief & helplessness are normal responses to trauma. It is important to talk about your feelings to recover. Many of the people had trouble speaking without crying at first, but by the time they left, they felt more in control & had ideas of things they could do that would help.

It is also important to remind yourself  & your children that there are many more supportive, good people in the world than those intent on doing harm.  In traumatic events, we are exposed to both the worst & the best parts of human nature. Media often focuses on the shocking, dramatic worst elements. Pay attention to people's natural instinct to help other human beings in time of crisis.

Turn off the TV or internet if you are feeling overwhelmed by the coverage which may be traumatizing.  Take care of yourself, make sure you rest, eat, exercise & follow as normal of a routine as possible.  Volunteer to help out. You will feel in more control of the situation if you feel there is something you can do to alleviate the situation.  Allow yourself to grieve if you have recently lost a loved one or have a loved one who has been hurt in the tragedy.

                                                         The Most Valuable Ring

I told the story of The Most Valuable Ring (You can listen to the story on the video, it may help you with this challenge as well.) to one of the people who came to see me. After I finished, she took off her wedding band & showed me an inscription: “We fall to conquer.” I asked her permission to share it here & she agreed. Tragedy can strengthen us. If we experience the loss, process it & cope with the fall, we can become stronger & conquer. We are one Boston.

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