Our reactions to these cascading disasters have also varied from despair to numbness, disbelief and anger to overwhelming sadness. These responses--while varied--can serve a purpose in our lives. They can call us to action, to stillness, or to something in between.
On Sunday, I attended a vigil held in remembrance of those who died in the recent New Zealand shootings. One of the speakers at the vigil described feeling comforted by those standing around him in solidarity. He gave voice to what had drawn my response that day — to somehow be present to those who are grieving, whether here or across the miles.
By Monday, a friend of mine was describing her response to the inundations of the Midwest as triggering. She said that she had to turn off the television altogether, because the images of communities underwater were flooding her mind with memories of the devastating events that hit our own community over a year ago. She described needing to cry, breathe deeply and then be still.
Disasters can elicit a wide array of emotions and reactions. The cases I just mentioned all spanned a period of only 4 days — each a response to a different headline. What that tells me is that we are now dealing with more frequent exposure to tragedies near and far.
Headlines and images will continue to capture our attention. At times, those images will allow us a glimpse into the experiences of people in other places. Perhaps those experiences are similar to those we have seen in our own hometowns and we will be prompted to respond — in still ways or in active ways. There is a path of understanding and empathy forged by “knowing“ what it is like to wade through flood waters or grieve the loss of a family or community member as a result of a tragic event.
Whatever our reaction may be to traumatic headlines — whether we respond en masse for collective purpose, roll up our sleeves to volunteer, hold vigil, or simply turn off the news to breathe a quiet prayer — we are witnesses to both our common humanity and the uncertainty of life.
Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” In this age of information, we know well that what happens on the other side of the globe will not only ripple, but stream into our field of awareness. While we can expect that our own responses to traumatic events will vary from day to day, we can take comfort in knowing that those responses can have ripples effects as well.
At ICTG we continue to encourage individuals and communities to become trauma informed, acknowledge loss and vulnerability, and build toward resilience and restoration. If we can be of support to you as you navigate the wave of cascading tragedies, please reach out. We are here for you.
Marvel Hitson serves as ICTG's Director of Congregational Health & Trauma Chaplain.
Marvel has been based out of the Montecito Center alongside the HOPE 805 Team & other community partners supporting Santa Barbara County in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire and Debris Flows. She is currently working towards long term recovery through Riviera Care Center Project in collaboration with the Community Wellness Team.