Sunday, September 11, 2011

United We Fall and Then We Get Back Up

"If my glass looks half empty, it is only because I've been blessed with the opportunity to share half of its contents with someone who was thirsty." Maria R. Palacios 
When I was first married to my husband we moved to an apartment complex where I met two women who changed my life completely. We were all three survivors of abuse of various degrees. One of us was molested and controlled; one of us was brutally raped at gunpoint, and the other abused, neglected, and was forced to live with the man, whom she is certain killed her mother. Not only were the three of us survivors but we all used creative writing to cope and to work through the healing process. Our real healing didn’t really begin individually until we joined together and became friends. Together we supported each other; we drank coffee, buried ourselves in self-help and psychology books and shared our poetic journals. I gained strength that I never knew I could have again and while my experiences will always be a part of who I have become; I have reached a place of peace. In healing, the beautiful compassion for other people rose out of the ashes.

When 911 happened I was getting ready for work and my husband yelled for me to come to the TV. At first I thought it was a movie, then, as I was trying to wrap my head around the idea of a plane accidently crashing into the towers, the second plane hit. I realized that we were under attack. I wanted to keep my daughter home from school and stay home from work, cuddled, safe and sound in our home. That did not happen. We had to go on and keep functioning and take care of our responsibilities; at least, that is what my supervisor convinced me of when I called in. I know what you are thinking… “Etha, are you seriously going to draw comparisons from personal tragedy to a national one?” The short answer is yes. I hope you bear with me as I tie it all together.

The Seven Stages of Healing - I want to preface this by saying that going through these stages is a loose journey. You will have revelations that progress you in some areas, and trip on triggers that will cause you to regress in others.

1. Shock and denial, an attempt to avoid pain by denying the loss – This is your mind trying to wrap its head around what has happened. It is hard to contemplate the evil that one or a group of people can do. I personally do not believe that people are in essence evil but broken or defective, but that is another subject.

2. Pain and guilt, a period of devastating pain and feelings that life is out of control.

3. Anger and bargaining – This is a reaction to the events after the reality of them sets in. Anger can be used as motivation if it is channeled as strength and motivation to make changes.The down side is if it is allowed to fester it can be very destructive.  Turned inward it can turn to self loathing and become destructive from the inside out; like over eating, sleeping around, drug and alcohol addictions or it can be externalized and breed prejudice and hate to the point of violence toward another human being.

This was the perfect time to provoke a war and get the country involved with very little question. I do not state this to revive any conspiracy theories around the war. I am simply demonstrating how the psychological state of the country allowed the government to move so quickly.

4. Depression and loneliness, or a period of reflection – This is the point that you realize you have to let go of what is gone and continue. Life goes on.

5. Upward turn, when the person begins to adjust to the loss and begins new routines and starts to envision life after.

6. Reconstruction – Finding a way to memorialize or pay tribute. John Walsh did this after his son was brutally murdered by creating America’s Most Wanted.

7. Acceptance – Learning the valuable lessons of the experience and keeping what is useful and discarding what is not. This is the place where inner peace is born. Tragedy and loss is not something that can ever really be forgotten nor should it be but eventually in order to really be healed you have to give yourself permission to be happy.

Like the various degrees of trauma my friends and I faced, we as American’s share the trauma of 911. The trauma that people suffered at ground zero is far deeper than the onlookers nationwide. Some of us lost family members while others simply watched on TV in their homes. But we all were affected that day and it is not a day we will ever forget.

I learned by both experiences that Americans are amazing. They are resilient and strong and in the face of darkness they can pull together and embrace one another, support one another and build each other up. Sharing the commonality of 911 as a country strengthens and binds us. It has given us the opportunity to learn the lessons of that day so that we can use that wisdom in our daily lives and pass them down to our children. We have the opportunity to pay homage to all those that were lost that day by living the best way that we can and grow into a new America, a stronger America and a more UNITED America than ever before and we can celebrate our half empty glass by knowing that we can provide for those who thirst.

But this… This is just my Wheelchair View.

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