April 17, 2013

Compassion & Anger During Times of Tragedy.

I’m not an expert on the inner workings of human emotions.

I know little about the criminal minds of terrorists.

I don’t presume to understand the complexities of recovering from a traumatic terrorist event.

I am only a person who witnessed a horrific attack from afar and whose heart sank in deep sadness for the victims.

In times like these, when what once made sense is no longer comprehensible, I’m thankful for communities like elephant journal that proclaim the need for compassion and focus on the good that surrounds each of us.

But at the same time, I’m angry—full-fledged pissed off—at such heinous, monstrous acts. I can’t help but want the swiftest, most vengeful action taken upon the pathetic individual or group who felt compelled to destroy the lives of so many innocent people. Such desire to cause horrific destruction is something I will never understand.

Just as the need to give love, compassion and empathy in a time of great need is something these murderers will never understand.

I found myself fluctuating between these two extreme emotions the past two days, unsure at any given moment where my temperament would land. I’m trying desperately to find the compassion, to latch on to it, and not get swept up in the retaliating emotions that overwhelm my mind during these sad and horrid moments.

I have to resist the need to shelter my children and wrap them in my protective blanket for fear that such terrible fates might befall my family. The angry one inside me shouts out, “But that is what the terrorists want!”

I know I have to keep normalcy not just for my kids, but for those who are so deeply affected by these tragedies. I must honor those whose lives will never be the same. I must show my children the importance of standing strong in times of adversity.

I must lead by example.

But it is so hard to do.

I caught sight of a headline about the eight-year-old boy who perished in the Boston bombings. His name is Martin Richard. The brief synopsis of the article said he was a spectator spending the day with his family, the accompanying photo showed an innocent smiling boy holding a sign that read:

“No more hurting people.”

I couldn’t read further. I sobbed as my baby girl slept upstairs and I waited to pick up my son from preschool.

My son brought home a paper last week that displayed the first letters he had written at preschool. I’ll never forget him beaming as his teacher lead him to my car. As soon as she opened the door he jumped into his car seat, eager to share his amazing accomplishment. I was so proud of him. I felt like time stopped, just for a short moment, so I could soak in the experience and take a mental snapshot of his enormous smile.

It breaks my heart, with such incredible force, that these parents who have lost their children in such senseless attacks, will never again be able to experience these profound moments.

That’s when the anger sets in. That’s when the desire for revenge takes over. That’s when the need to protect my kids kicks into overdrive.

I want to do the right thing. I want to do right by those who have died and those who have had to experience such horror. I feel an intense need to contribute positively to my community during these difficult times. Mostly, I want to cultivate a sense of hope and empowerment in my home when all I keep thinking is, “How do I explain this to my kids?”

I want to be that compassionate soul who has the right answer, but it is so hard to do.

I eventually heard the rest of the story about Martin Richard on the radio this afternoon. His mother was seriously injured and his sister lost her leg. The journalist’s voice broke as he reported the news. I was driving home from an appointment as I listened. I wept.

Why such tragedy, why?

I came home to find my two precious children playing outside with their dad. I wanted to scoop them up and be thankful for the blessings that I was given today, but it’s difficult when you know there are parents suffering the deepest sorrow they could possibly experience.

It’s hard to make sense of the nonsensical. It’s agonizing to know you can do little to alleviate the victims’ suffering.

All you can do is press on, with a heavy heart, and hope you can foster love and compassion in your own family.

Most importantly, we must keep the victims foremost in our hearts. We must keep their needs, their hopes, active. Don’t waste those energized emotions on the attackers. Use that fire in your belly to lift the victims up and give them hope during these dark days.

We must do our best to thwart the anger and show how our families, our communities, our children, that darkness never prevails. No matter how difficult the task.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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