The Riggs Blog

How Can We Take Care of One Another After the Boston Tragedy?

By Kim Winnegge, LCSW

What happened on April 15, 2013, in the streets on Boston will stay seared in our minds and hearts. At the Austen Riggs Center, our thoughts continue to be with the families and loved ones of those injured, lost, and affected by the bombings at the Boston Marathon, just like many of the other senseless tragedies we link to cities across the world. Newtown, Aurora, Baghdad, Blacksburg, New York City. The list goes on. The bombs may have been silenced but the feelings we are left with reverberate with such force. We think: What can we do? What should we do? Let’s pause. We’ll get to that. Breathe for a minute. Be thankful for that breath.

We think of running as a pure simple joy. Inhalation. Exhalation. We think of it as children running through sprinklers; joggers spreading the dewdrops out a little farther into the morning’s sunrise.

We think of marathons as communities. People banding together, one breath at a time, feet pounding the pavement collectively in sync with a common purpose, numbers emblazoned on backs and on chests. We think of the Boston Marathon as “our marathon,” our turf, our celebration of athletes, of communities, of commemorations for those who have run before but could not, for reasons unknown, make it this time.

The 2013 Boston Marathon will be in our minds and in our hearts for new reasons. We came together for purity and the community. We stayed together for the tragedy and the community. We stayed together to help. Runners who finished the marathon kept running to the nearest donation center to give blood. Emergency personnel worked tirelessly to ensure all were cared for. There are still so many unknowns. There are still so many fears. And yes, still so many anxieties.

So how can we rally? Where are our invisible marathon numbers we can plaster on our backs and chests during this trauma?

How can we take care of one another? As I mentioned, even if you were nowhere near Boston, even if you are not a runner yourself, you may be feeling the severe effects of what transpired at the marathon. Take time to process those events, with a friend, loved one, family member, a mental health professional, such as a psychotherapist, social worker, or an analyst. Journal your thoughts. Express yourself through art - paint your feelings, sing, draw. Donate blood or plasma at your nearest center. 

Be aware of your mood during this time. Your sadness, sudden anger, or reactivity may indicate a stronger connection to this trauma. The world is feeling a lot of difficult emotions right now, so it may be expected. But be as gentle to yourself during this awful time as you would to those who are suffering those tremendous losses. We are all in desperate need of healing, and deep, deep breaths. Be grateful for those breaths. I know I am.