Month: April 2013

Healing After Boston

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I wrote this piece right after the Boston Marathon Bombings,  now as the anniversary has approached. I hope it gives some healing and perspective.


Just like all of you, I sat shocked looking at the footage.

Each explosion caused a slight jerk to my body as I stared in disbelief.  In fact, I saw majority of the footage on my phone because I did not want my three year old to watch it with me.

Unfortunately she heard the screaming and the explosions and tried to take the phone from my hand as she knew it was footage worth seeing. I pretended I was watching a trailer for a movie. I kept saying as I walked away from her “Aww, I am just watching a movie commercial baby.” Luckily she got distracted with playing with my exercise resistance bands that were lying nearby. She did not notice my shock or my tears.

There are a lot of images that keep playing in my mind. The tired runner who is shocked and looks to his left, or the one that falls to the ground. The bright yellow jackets, bystanders running to pull the fences off, or the smoke climbing higher and higher.

It has been two days since the blast and I am still shaken over.

I went to my gym today for a workout and had to see the images at least five times on three different tv sets.  The images are far, far from ever being a memory. We are indeed a people grieving.

It has been a tough past year. Sandy Hook and now, The Boston Marathon.  Two loving, inspiring and beautiful parts of our world (pre-schools and physically challenging celebrations) have been stolen and tied to horrific feelings of grief.

The truth is, after Sandy Hook I did not know how I was going to recover. How I was ever going to not think of those children every time I drove by an elementary school. Or, worse how I could breath after I dropped my own daughter to preschool.  After the Boston bombings I actually kept my daughter home from school for a day. I had a vivid nightmare the night of the bombings ( a violent car collision), probably fueled by the images all day and decided to keep her close to my heart. Probably not rational, but it is what my heart needed to feel safe, to heal.

Facebook has also made the images of these tragedies come closer to our lives. Seeing the pictures of the ones who pass away, their loved ones, their candid photos, all make you fall deeper into grief for their loved ones. Their hurt becomes a people’s collective hurt.

So how do we move forward? How do we move to a place where these tragedies are no longer a topic majority of our week.

As I see the sadness in the eyes of the journalists and the people around me, I gave this question a lot of thought. How do we heal?

Then I realized my question at its core, is incomplete.

The question cannot be answered without also asking, “What does this all mean?”

A vague question – yes.

An all encompassing truth seeking inquiry fueled by grief – yes.

After all it is moments of helplessness, sadness, exhaustion in spirit that we seek a bigger and better understanding of the circumstances we pretend play to be masters of.

These tragedies have led me to this question. What is the big picture? What is the reason I am witnessing these tragedies and not actually a victim?  I strongly believe this question as we watch as observers must be asked AND we cannot take our joy we have now for granted.

We can go on to debate for years whom is responsible, why and investigate every detail. These are all very important steps. In fact, I feel the media feels that the public needs questions answered so their grief may be contained. The media shared that there was a young man with Saudi descent guarded at the hospital as a suspect after the bombings. His whole place was in a matter of minutes searched and his roommate bombarded with media questions to the point where his roommate was in tears.  It turned out, the Saudi suspect had no involvement and was just a college kid who was a victim in the bombings and running towards the chaos looking for help. Instead he was tackled and handcuffed and put in a hospital bed because he fit a description the police thought may be to blame.  Fear and anger will cloud rational thought, and even our own standards of integrity.

Now, we have seen a few images, heard about a shootout and even a man hunt. One can assume, that any individual who resembles these wanted individuals in the least, much like the Saudi college student, will have a difficult time moving in public. After all, a people who are hurt and angry can even turn on themselves. The media feels the more information that is shared, regardless of its veracity will help us.

But the truth is, they are wrong.  And we are wrong. We are wrong to assume that knowing every detail will make us feel better about the tragedy, make us forget about the ones who have died and lost loved ones.  You see, knowing the information will definitely help us be smarter and learn to be more secure. BUT it will not heal our hearts. And for a positive, loving people whose attributes are represented in our smallest of neighborhoods, we need our hearts to be healed after tragedy. We need to leave the space for grief while still remembering the loss with dignity.

For this ambitious need, we can only turn to a world bigger than our own. Whether you are religious, spiritual person or a person who believes in the infinite power of ourselves, we need to see lessons in our grief and learn from our collective tragedies in order to rebuild an optimistic environment for our children. For a positive spirit can conquer mountains.

So what conclusion have I come to?

For now, I feel deep in my heart, The tragedies I witness from afar are also teaching me very important lessons. All of them, pointing to me. Calling on me to be responsible for my world, as small or large that may be.

1)    Compassion – As I saw the people falling to their feet, screaming in fear, I did not care who they were. My heart ached for them. My desire was to run towards them. If I could I would.  I know that this feeling, of natural compassion brimming is given to us all for a purpose. It is not an emotion that we should ignore.

We are given compassion so we may transcend our differences.  A universal tool so strong, that we may overlook what separates us in race, religion, community and instead help us put our efforts in rebuilding. How many tragedies have we seen locally and globally that we have separated ourselves from? What if we allowed our compassion to override our other limiting cognitive faculties and follow the inspiration to help in some way.  Have we as a people harnessed the power of compassion that is so easily available to us?

2)    Empathy –Empathy is the ability to feel what another is feeling in a situation. In a nutshell, it is a tool to help us become more emotionally intelligent. Though I do not know the father who lost his daughter at Sandy Hook, or the father who lost his son at the Marathon ; I feel their pain for them whenever they cross my mind. My throat gets choked up.  What If I used this empathy to do more?  What if I gained perspective in my personal conflicts and those that I see taking place globally. What if I took the empathy to realize that no father anywhere should every cry on the grave of his child. And as a person, a community member, a family member and a friend my empathy should drive me to make sure that no father ever has to. In the same spirit, I empathize with the young Saudi college kid well, and understand how difficult it must be when you are in a hospital bed guarded by people who find you guilty because of you physical appearance. What you stand for, who you are and what you morality is irrelevant to those searching for an enemy.

3)    Gratitude – This lesson does not need much explaining. I should hug the ones I love tighter, and get closer to the ones I like. We are all here for a short, short time and our departure may not come with a warning.

4)    Ownership – This one by far is the hardest to do through anger and grief.

Nonetheless, it is the most important. We must begin to take ownership of our lives, our communities and our failings. Now, we do not know who is responsible for the Boston bombings for sure, and we as a people may never actually know. But, like I stated earlier – I feel it would not help us heal in the long run anyway.

Rather, we should also focus on what we do know about these tragedies. Both involve rage, anger. Someone or some party has in both cases let their rage out of control and hurt the hearts and lives of many.

Why I have to ask myself, have we allowed the space for such rage to exist within or world. We have abundant resources, abundant sources of intelligence, but we still have allowed situations to create rage. In a time of technology and resources why have we not been able to cooperate and recognize the OTHER. Whomever he or she may be. I use the word OTHER as an individual who has separated from us. What in our communities have gone wrong?  Columbine, Sandy Hook, Boston Bombings, London Bombings – all the perpetrators motivated by different reasons all had one thing in common – Rage and Alienation. Somehow, the angry, vengeful tendencies in societies overpowered the compassionate and rational components and took control of these individuals. If we believe that hate and deep anger is learned, including how to deal with these emotions,  are we at a place where we can look at ourselves? No, perhaps not yet. The wounds too fresh I agree. But I also know we should get there, because we have seen tragedies before. For without understanding for our own morality and perceptions, we cannot hope to have perspective about others and the sources of their rage so we may curtail its impact on innocence.

This is how I have chosen to heal.  To take the tears of those who have actually suffered loss and use them to motivate me to make my little world better. To allow my lessons from grief to result in a more responsible, compassionate, empathetic global citizen and replace the isolated angry revenge seeking fearful version of myself that may arise from tragedies.  And to always bow my head in my hands in gratitude for what I have so I can help others have the same – security and joy.

I hope this piece has helped you want to heal one day at a time. It’s a long a road, but perhaps one of the most important for a people who have more love to offer than fear and hurt.   I hope that we all will witness future tragedies as a personal extension of ourselves and allow our emotions to bring us all closer and connect us to the bigger picture.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on how you heal with me here.