Some things just are.
Every question has an answer…., unfortunately not. This week we are once again confronted with tragedy on a gross scale. The first question on many peoples minds is either why or who. Now should you have time to spare to read 50,000 words then I could probably produce a reasoned and extensive explanation of both those things, I could ramble on about alienation, relative morality, imperialism ad infinitum and ad nauseam I expect. This might help to explain acts of terror like that which has just happened in Boston. I could produce a thesis about systemic issues in Health and Safety failures that might provide some explanation about what happened in Waco Texas Christchurch Earth Quake, and Cave Creek.
It is natural for people to want to know why and who. They want someone to blame, a place to hang anger, hatred, and confusion. Effectively a place to park many of the overwhelming emotions that flow over at a time like that. Witness the people who gathered at the court house when it was rumoured that a suspect had been taken into custody, voyeurism perhaps can explain some of that, a need to actually do something to avoid being paralysed with grief perhaps? It really doesn’t matter
Underneath this is an unleashing and outpouring of grief and sympathy for the victims of such tragedy both the living and the dead. Keeping in minds concepts such as six degrees of separation and taking into account how we experience events through the internet, live feed and other high speed global village kind of information things have changed. Images that may have taken well over a year a hundred years ago are now on our screens in real time. Technology has meant that many of these kinds of events are captured live. Who can forget the pictures of people jumping from the twin towers, the Boston bombing captured live? Such imagery impacts in a way that highly personalises the event that has just happened. I think it also increases our personal trauma as well. We then need to make sense of it.
I will talk about personal reactions in my next blog but right now I want to share one of my important life lessons, and that is to explore about how we react to people in trauma. I have shared before how I seem hard wired to care and when someone in my life is experiencing grief trauma pain, my natural inclination is to want to fix it, make it better but the horrible naked truth is that some things just are and they are not fixable. I have learnt through personal experience of grief and loss and by applying those lessons to other situations that I come across I think I have something that is worth saying about this.
I remember when my Brother took his life, a well meaning man told me he was going to hug me, I said no and he said I know what you need, I was at a bible study and he approached me, I told him that if he touched me I would knock his ffffing block off, he turned to the pastor and said “did you hear that? “ The pastor said “yes I did”. “Well what are you going to do,” said the would be hugger? The pastor replied well I will hold you while he knocks your block off then perhaps a hug might help you feel better. One of my poems encapsulates this feeling really well I think. http://softlyfallingpoetry.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/i-saw-death/ People want to say something to make themselves feel better as well as the person who is hurting, On the outside the person in receipt of these words often has to grit their teeth and smile as platitudes and words of condolence and advice are dished out. On the inside my experience is that you want people just to shut up.
What they want is for you to say there are no words, can I hug you, I love you, call me any time you need to talk. Don’t tell me that it will get better, don’t tell me how to feel or how not to feel, don’t tell me you know how I feel, cry with me instead tell me it is devastating and you don’t know what to say or do and for the love of humanity don’t remind me of the good things in my life. All of those things are truisms and perhaps at some stage it may be appropriate to share… but let your first response be compassion, I know it works for me and the feedback that I have had from people who I have done this for is positive. Remember thatm well meaning words of advice given when the trauma, grief, or pain is acute are often as poisonous and hurtful as the trauma itself.
One last word of advice, don’t be surprised when if you ask someone how are you they say not that great. Remember that somethings just are and not every thing can be healed or fixed in this world.