What then should be our response? Over the next three months I am offering a three-part blog series addressing the following topics:
1) “What I Feel”
2) “What I Know”
3) “What I Do (or should I do)”
WHAT I FEEL: Thoughts and reflections of a youth pastor in a post-traumatic world
When you reflect on your life to this point, what events would also be remembered by your location at the time the event occurred? In this situation you might hear yourself say, “I remember exactly where I was when such and such happened.”
I was only four years old when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated but I remember who told me and where I was. In 2001 I was 42 years old and I remember where I was and who told me of the tragedy on September 11th.
What is behind the combination of an event and the clear memory of our context? Some of these memories may be tied to very happy occasions i.e. marriage proposal or weddings. Sadly, most are paired with a highly impactful tragedy we have experienced second-hand or even first-hand. Along with the bigger events we carry recollections associated with multiple other circumstances.
As a youth pastor for over three and a half decades I have walked with teenagers and families through countless events of separation, injury, tragedy and death. In each moment I faced – and still face - the following choices all related to my feelings about what has just happened:
1) Acknowledge the person’s or persons’ circumstances and then move on
2) Ignore the circumstances and hope somebody else will take care of those affected
3) Acknowledge the circumstances and try to “fix” it
4) Acknowledge the circumstances, “sit” with those who have been impacted, listen to them and provide resources/support to help them work through the post-traumatic issues.
Depending on the situation I may be dealing with my own personal response to what I have just experienced. This complicates my response as a healer also feeling pain.
In times of tragedy we will “feel” for ourselves and those around us. We cannot settle for choices #1, 2 and 3 listed above but where do we find the resources to implement choice #4? We’ll address this in the next blog
Questions for consideration
· What has worked or not worked for you in dealing with your personal feelings following a traumatic event?
· What has worked or not worked for you in responding to others’ feelings following a traumatic event?