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If tragedy strikes, are you prepared for the stress?

The following article was published on Monday, June 17, 2013 in the Dearborn County Indiana Register and on June 19, 2013 in the Ohio County News & Rising Sun Indiana Recorder:
If Tragedy strikes, are you prepared for the stress?
Can it happen here, and are we ready to cope with the stress?
Take into account the recent bombing in Boston; the plant explosion in Waco, Texas; the Newtown shooting; and the other tragedies that we see nightly on the news. The question has to be asked, can they happen here? Sadly the answer is yes, living in small town America does not make us immune from tragedies happening.
Southeastern Indiana has seen its fair share of tragedies over the years from: floods, serious car accidents, house fires, and drug overdoses, just to name a few.  The truth be told, we are no different than any other American city. What will make us different is how we cope with the stress that is produced in the times of crisis.  I moved to New York City shortly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, to assist folks affected by the grief and stress of living through those events.  As I talked with the folks that were affected I found three groups of people:
1) Those that were physically affected, and forever had their lives changed. With the attacks on the World Trade Center or as with recent Boston Bombing, this would include those wounded by the blast, those that lost a loved one, those that were in the blast zone and saw the devastation as in unfolded, and those first responders that treated the injured and dying.
2) Those that were in the immediate area and had their lives disrupted by the unfolding events creating a higher level of stress and fear.  I remember counseling with individuals that would go through serious anxiety attacks every time they crossed a bridge, because of the fears of the unknown as they fled NYC when the Towers fell. There are folks that will develop an uneasy fear or maybe an excessive amount of anxiety when they are in a large crowd, due to their experiences in Boston, even if they never saw the blasts themselves.
3) Those that watched the events transpire by news, web, and printed news.  I was amazed by the anxiety and fear that comes from watching the events unfolding over and over again on the television, especially among young people and children. It can cause them to stay awake at night worrying that their parent may not come home because they now see what the world is capable of.
Addressing these anxieties is hard, and preparing individuals beforehand is even harder. We continue to live in a society where the belief system says it will happen to others, but not to me.  I remember that I always laughed or found it amusing how others hit a deer, and the damage it did to their car. However, about a year ago my laugher turned to anxiety and fear because I hit and killed a deer, and more importantly totaled a car I really liked.  The sad reality is it can happen to us, and preparing is important. However, more importantly is how we go through the events, and help others in the process.
I have found there are several things that make individuals overcomers when tragedy hits. It is important that in these hard times that we talk about our feelings, our thoughts, and our perception of the events currently unfolding. We need to understand that everybody is going to face this crisis differently, individuals are going to suffer from shock, and most are going to begin to move through the grief process of loss (family member, health, a sense of security, and etc.)
Individuals are going to go through the grief process, beginning with Denial … Rejection that it has actually happened, Anger … Often at loved ones or even God, Bargaining … If I do this, Depression … Life is not worth living, Acceptance … Moving On.
As individuals, it is imperative that we do three simple things (or maybe not so simple):
1) We talk with family and friends that can help us process the emotions and feeling we are struggling with concerning this event.
2) We seek help from a professional counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, pastor or minister to help us make some sense of the events.
3) We move forward with the help of family and friends to return our life to a sense of normal as quickly as possible.  
The sad reality is that yes, the events that occurred in Boston and Waco could happen here in Southeastern Indiana and all the planning, drills, inspections, metal detectors or any other great tool is not going to protect society 100 percent of the time. I pray that it does not happen, I prepare my heart and mind daily that if it does I will be able to cope with the stress, walk through the pain, and help others come alongside of me to be stronger in the long run.


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