by Jenn Krebs, N.D.
As a person whose work centers around the concept of healing, I look at Boston with a broken, heavy heart and a sense of awe. Amongst the horrific images and the unspeakable loss is the reality of a city and a community doing what it must do … grieve, process and move forward.
As a student clinician in September of 2001, I learned quickly that living through a tragic event, whether it affects you directly or indirectly, is an experience that leaves you forever changed. Our process of grieving a world and a life that will never be the same and making sense of an unspeakable and unfathomable situation becomes our new reality. In the past 5 months, our country, our communities, and our collective consciousness have endured so much heartbreak. The people of Newtown and Boston have experienced a loss and a devastation that is unbearable, unimaginable.
Why am I writing about these events in a newsletter where I hope to motivate and inspire individuals to live healthier lives? To observe Boston as it grieves and moves forward is to witness the human experience of healing in its purest form. I am struck by the parallels that can be drawn and the lessons that can be learned as to how we react, respond and go forward in our lives after tragic events as well as during periods of personal challenge and illness.
It is what people do in difficult times that exemplify how we heal and mend the holes in our communities and in ourselves. We are moved to action. We are kind, we give, we help, we support, we pray, we love, we listen. We make memorials, we give money, we volunteer our time, we donate food and clothing. We are raw, we are broken, we weep, we scream, we are angry, we are scared, we are confused. We open our hearts, we feel strength, we feel gratitude, we feel pride, we feel inspired.
I am certainly not the first person to say it. Healing is not a linear process. We must never forget that the anger, grief and confusion we feel are just as important as the moments where we may feel inspired, moved, and grateful. Whether we are healing a deep emotional wound, an acute loss or tragedy, or an illness, we must embrace the cyclic nature of our emotions. Over the past two weeks, I have seen the people of Boston express all manner of emotions: acute grief, anger, despair, acceptance, denial, fear, love, guilt, gratitude, sadness, and joy. All of these states are appropriate, valid and important; they are how we heal.
When we are faced with personal challenge or tragedy, we are forced to stop our daily routine. Much like Boston two weeks ago, we are stopped in our tracks, we address the acute situation, we reassess our priorities, and we create a plan of action. And, of equal importance, we must allow time to grieve, process and move forward. I am careful not to use the words “move on;” moving on may be something we do at a later point, but to heal we must learn how to move forward in our lives while remaining present to the totality and complexity of our experience.
The day Boston reopened Boylston Street, I saw images and footage of people creating memorials, embracing each other, crying with each other, expressing anger and rage, celebrating the strength of the city … and simply being present with each other. Innately, we know we can’t fix the pain, but we know we can honor it and be present with it.
I have found tremendous guidance and inspiration from the people of Boston. And yet I am acutely aware that as I sit here writing about “healing,” so many individuals and families have endured unspeakable and unfathomable losses; I don’t pretend to know if one can truly heal from such a loss. My intent in writing about how Boston has faced this tragedy is in no way meant to diminish that loss. Rather it is to encourage us to learn from the grace and courage and resolve of a community. For I truly believe that through the commitment to and process of healing ourselves, we heal the world a little bit too.