Sunday, April 21, 2013

Grief: The Boston Marathon Bombing and Being Safe

When the explosions went off at the Boston Marathon I was on an Amtrak Train.  At Back Bay Station, near the finish line, they made an announcement that passengers could stay on until the final station - South Station.  They also warned people who were getting off to proceed with caution.  At South Station my daughter and granddaughter greeted me with hugs and smiles. We are trying to teach Gwendy that Grandma goes away and comes back on a train so she doesn't look for me in the house when I'm not there.  We saw a few police cars and ambulances on the way to the scene.  We were always safe.

Even in the following days we were safe.  On the day that one suspect was killed and the other captured we were safe.  My daughter had taken Gwendy to music class and I texted her each update to make sure she knew what was happening and that she wasn't anywhere near the lockdown areas.  I also texted her about the controlled explosion in Cambridge in case she heard anything.  Still we were safe.

The truth is even most of the people who ran in the Boston Marathon and those that cheered them on went home safe.  I cannot even begin to imagine the grief of the families and friends of the victims.  I cannot even begin to imagine the grief of the family and friends of the perpetrators.  Their mother had two sons on Thursday; on Friday one was dead and the other was wounded and will either spend the rest of his life in prison or be executed.  I am not excusing in any way what they did.  I am only trying to state an obvious fact - grief casts a wide net.

However, nothing happened to me.  I am selfish about grief.  I have compassion and sadness but my grief is not the grief of others.  The media runs images of horror over and over again as if there is no good news to be had anywhere in the world.  School shootings are also horrific.  However, most children around the world go off to school and come home happy and safe.  People ask, "What do we tell our children."  Tell them that they are safe.  Tell them to look outside and see the breeze gently blowing the leaves in the trees and people laughing.

I also find it strange that as the president and religious leaders came together people talked about how the healing has begun.  If it didn't happen to you, you can perhaps feel an immediate healing.  To people who had their loved ones murdered, to people who lost limbs or had their loved ones lose limbs it will take more than a few inspirational words from important men and women to heal.  There is a lot of hard work ahead and a lot of tears.

My friend Mathilde who suffered the genocide in Rwanda and further suffered the death of her beloved husband Kimenyi has just been appointed the Rwandan ambassador.   Even though after her husband's death she described herself as a bird flying with one wing, she has continued to fly.   She gives her life helping children to be safe.

The reason I have been thinking about this is that every since my husband died I have felt unsafe.  I say it all the time, "I haven't felt safe since Artie died."  It's a false construct.  I am lonely, I am sad, I am a lot of things.  It is difficult not to find comfort in his eyes and his touch - but I am safe.  You have to be where the bad thing is happening and for most of us we are somewhere else.  We focus on the bad thing and not the good things.  When Artie died, for a long time I thought of him only as dead Artie.  Then I realized that I had spent much more time with the living Artie than with his ashes.  I started thinking a lot more about the memories of the living Artie.  It makes me happy to think of the living Artie.  It makes me happy to think of him still being alive in a spirit kind of way.

I remind you of Nick Kemp who says we are only one thought away from a good feeling.  It doesn't always seem that way.  However, if we think only of the painful things we miss so much.  The painful things need our attention to be sure -  but they don't need it 24 hours a day.  Hello pain.  I need to spend time with you.  Now I need to do something else.

In Boston there are many heroes.  Many first responders but also ordinary people.  People who helped.  If our vision is fixed only on the victims and the perpetrators we can't see the heroes.  We need to see them too, so we can be reassured that while there is evil and death there is also good and life.

I encourage you today to look for the helpers and the heroes.  To think of all those who work hard and despite, or maybe because of, their struggle are decent caring people.  I encourage you to look at yourself.  Don't forget to see those things in yourself that are good and true.  Send your inner critic off on spring break.  If you love and are loved -as you must be if you are reading a blog on grief - there is great joy in that.  It might be buried under piles of why bother? and it's too hard and it hurts too much.  What that means is that you need to dig a little (or a lot) for it.

In my daughter's back yard there is a beautiful flower growing in a quite desolate place. When I was walking I almost didn't see it.  I don't know where it came from or how it survives without being watered except by rain - but there it is.  I have a feeling you have seeds sprouting somewhere - because you are alive.  You have to notice the flowers.

If you are the one that a bad thing happened to today - or you are the one facing a date - or many difficulties - I wish you Boston courage.  Their new slogan - even on T-shirts very quickly - is Boston Strong.  The t-shirts also say Never Forget.  I will never forget but I am Jan Strong.  Try saying your name followed by the word Strong.  You can encompass it all.  Good gracious - if I'm still here - anyone can do it!!   xo

1 comment:

  1. So well expressed. I am sure many people will find it helpful and be touched by it. Two of my children have died as well as many other much loved family members. Your words resonate with me. Deb Kosmer