Self-Care When Tragedy Strikes

When tragedy strikes, we need to tend to ourselves as best we can.

Apr 16, 2013 at 2:30pm | Leave a comment

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Yesterday was a very sad, shocking day.
 
I had just biked over to mail my taxes and I saw a post from someone on Facebook: “Please post if you know what happened in Boston."
 
Somewhere, in that weird place in me that knows things, I felt it. One word: bomb.
 
I made a comment: “in regards to what?”
 
The comments started flowing, “explosion…” and words like that. My newsfeed suddenly filled with status updates. And I spent the next 30 minutes glued to my computer, updating myself and others via Twitter and facebook. I thanked my spiritual practice for the mindfulness it brought me, my ability to stay present and post information and retrieve it from my friends all around the city.
 
I live about 7.5 miles away from where the explosion happened. I was nursing my first headcold since October and was too sick to go to the marathon, so I was watching the updates from home.
 
I thought about my good friend had just told me that morning how he was injured and wasn’t able to run but he’d be ready next year. I texted him, “explosions Downtown. I’m glad you’re not there today.”
 
I thought about my client; two years ago she started with a Couch-to-5K and ended up doing the marathon once and came back for a second time this year. Running to raise money for a family member who had passed away.
 
I thought about my friend who had just posted a video on Facebook from the sidewalk. I knew she was there. I txted her immediately. When she replied she was safe I instantly wrote: “I love you.” She wrote it back, even though we’ve never been that intimate. But that moment called for it.
 
I spent the next 3 hours texting people I knew and saying I love you when they said they were safe. People wrote it back when they checked in with me. Thinking that people would be fleeing from the city, I offered up my living room and apartment to runners or anyone who wanted some respite.
 
The whole time I thought how I was really surprised someone didn’t hit us sooner. There’s been so much violence and madness lately. Now it was our turn. On Patriots Days, of all days -- a holiday this city celebrates each year. “A silly, made-up holiday” as the guy behind the post office counter had said, just minutes before the explosion.
 
A silly made-up holiday in a city I’ve adopted as home for almost 7 years. It’s my home. And someone just hurt my family here.
 
I wasn’t downtown but I still felt the impact and emotional frenzy as my friends and I texted each other, frantically.
 
As reports kept coming in about an explosion or fire near Harvard, just a few miles away from my apartment, I felt helpless. I was afraid.  Would it keep happening? Would there be more?
 
When tragedy strikes, we need to tend to ourselves as best we can.
 
CONNECTION
 
As the news unfolded via social media, I reached out to every person I knew, either texting them or checking their Facebook wall for an update. I expressed pure love for each person -- there was a connection happening over the airwaves that astounded me. We are forever changed. I held nothing back and experienced that same intimacy with others -- it was a wonderful experience.
 
I posted that our home was available to anyone needing a place to stay and one dear friend came over. We spent the night both grieving and laughing, celebrating our full, rich lives and our gratitude for one another. Texts came through all night and I was comforted by the connections with friends both near and far.
 
NUTRITION
 
Despite feeling queasy with emotion and shock, everyone I loved and knew was OK. I sent loving compassion to those less fortunate who would spend hours in waiting rooms, ERs, hotel rooms, apartments and on the sidewalks of the city as they struggled through a difficult night. There was no reason to not feed myself. Due to massive changes in our lifestyle habits, there is food in the fridge every day of the week now. I felt more gratitude, to have what I need to keep myself healthy and well.
 
SLEEP
 
When bedtime came, I hit the sack. I had seen all the footage enough times. I had made sure all my beloved friends and colleagues were OK. I needed to rest. I headed to bed with the knowledge that I had done all I could to help. I had posted information and offered my home to those who may need it. With that peace of mind, I was able to turn off the computer and take care of myself so I could help again in the morning.
 
COMFORT
 
New sheets on the bed were a huge help for what could have been a sleepless night. Around 3 am I woke up with a huge pain in my stomach. Grief, certainly. Emotion I had quelled when I was responding in the moment. Now, it was surfacing. I got up and filled my hot water bottle with very hot water and placed it over my stomach. I felt instant relief and I was back asleep within minutes. There may also have been a stuffed animal or two beside me.
 
I am so humbled and grateful for the many friends and colleagues near and far who checked in on me, as I had tried to do when similar events unfolded in their towns and cities. As I’m sure you’re noticing, we are experiencing a massive shift in mass violence and natural tragedies in recent years and I don’t know why it’s happening, but in the midst of the suffering, I am finding comfort in the connections that happen as a result.
 
I find comfort in connecting with people and expressing my love and concern for them.
 
I find comfort in remembering that grief is temporary, and part of being human.
 
I find comfort in knowing our city can and will rally together to support each other, just as others have done before us.
 
We’re Boston. If we can overcome those damn Redcoats, we got this one.
 
Reprinted with permission from Dillan DiGiovanni. Find the original here