Yesterday on my Facebook page I received a note from Elizabeth Devita Rayburn, author, young mother and bereaved sibling stating that she was lucky to be out of town when the bomb exploded in Manhattan on Saturday night.
She wanted her friends to know that although she lived only a few blocks from the bombsite she and her family were safe. Likewise, I was happy to hear that my daughter, Heidi, who also lives in Manhattan, was safe although she, like many New Yorkers, was taken back by an inadvertent involvement in a manhunt when they received over their cellphones a digital wanted poster for Ahad Kan Rhami. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the 24-hour news channels showed Mr. Rhami, who was wounded in a gunfight with police, had been captured. My sister-in-law who lives in Utah emailed us several times to find out how Heidi was doing.
It seems that every event since 9/11 shakes us all to the very core. I am sure like my Facebook friend many of those who have had past losses were impacted; some more than others. One woman, whose husband was killed in 9/11, called to talk about our upcoming radio show. When I asked how she was doing, she said that watching the news upset her as they kept showing a clip of people running from the blast, which brought painful memories of people running from the Twin Trade Towers. She was surprised how the visuals had impacted her as she kept running the clip over and over in her mind and connecting it with her husband's death. I suggested that if she continues to have trouble dealing with this event she might want to consider reaching out for support.
Reach Out For Support
I am a great fan of the group process. For me it started in nursing school years ago when I was exposed to the work of Dr. Victor Yalom and his classic 1970 book The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy. In Dr. Yalom's book he identifies eleven Therapeutic Factors (sometimes referred to as Yalom's Curative Factors) that help facilitate change within individuals in the group setting. I have found severable of these helpful in providing peer support at our Compassionate Friends chapter meetings.
Eight Curative Factors
1. Installation of Hope - Sharing with and supporting others who have lost loved ones leads to the hope that life can be good again. Being with individuals who are earlier in their grief gives those who are a little further down the road the feeling that they are making progress.
2. Universality- Joining with other bereaved people helps participants know that they are not isolated in their sorrow. Grief is a universal human experience and grieving together provides a sense of connection. Simply being in a group and sitting with individuals who have similar issues can be healing.
3. Imparting information - Sharing information is an important part of the group experience. Specific advice or solutions should not be offered; rather members are encouraged to share their experiences in dealing with similar problems.
4. Altruism - The act of selfless giving without the expectation of a reward helps grievers begin to show interest in others rather than focusing on their own grief. There are many opportunities for service in a group setting - some as simple as making snacks or arranging chairs.
5. Development of Socializing Techniques - Group meetings, conferences and Internet sharing provide the opportunity to develop and maintain relationships over time. Skills at handling emotions can be learned by example and used to help participants in their relationships with others.
6. Imitative Behavior - Watching how others respond to their loss can give members the opportunity to experiment with their own behavior and find out who they are and who they are not. Behavior of group members can teach skills that can be used outside of the group.
7. Group Cohesiveness - Over time members begin to feel the warmth and comfort of being part of a group. With the trauma of loss it is recommended that people attend three sessions before leaving the group.
8. Catharsis - Group sharing provides the bereaved with the opportunity to express deep emotional feelings and experience an intense emotional release without fear of judgment. It can also be cathartic for other group members to witness someone dealing with an emotional experience that they can relate to.
My heart goes out to all those who are experiencing current trauma and injuries as well as those who are having trauma related to past losses. It is never too late to reach out. Your local hospital or hospice may be able to help you find a group. Also, look for support groups in your community. We have kara.org in Palo Alto, California. You can also go to thecompassionatefriends.org for child loss or soaringspirits.org for spouse loss.