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January 20, 2004

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Dawn-Elise Snipes (Always) Thinking About Wellness
with Dawn-Elise Snipes

How to Cope During These Trying and Disturbing Times

These are very trying and disturbing times for all of us, but some people are feeling the impact of this tragedy more than others. Several factors can increase the effects of a traumatic event on people.

First, the proximity of the event. When we hear of bombings in other countries it does not affect us as keenly as does this event on American soil. For those that are from New York or Washington D.C., or had family there, the impact is even greater.

Secondly, consider your similarity to those involved in the event. Most of us can draw some very strong parallels between the victims in this incident and ourselves. They were mothers/daughters, husbands/sons, friends, working-class, and, also like us, they did not even have the faintest thought that they were going to die that dreadful Tuesday. It really makes you realize that it could have been you.

Thirdly are safety concerns. The fact that this terrorist act blind-sided us is enough to strike fear into the hearts of many, but the fact that they had no concern for innocent lives, and that the hit the Pentagon leaves most of us with an unsettled feeling waiting for the other shoe to drop. Our sense of security has been shattered—someone has come into our home and victimized us.

The fourth component of this model is previous distress. We only have so much energy and we can only bear so much at any one time. For people who were already stressed out, grieving or recovering from a physical or psychological trauma, this event is much harder to bear. In fact, pre-existing problems might temporarily become worse as a result of the added stress. (This includes normal events like pregnancy).

Finally, the model recognizes the huge contribution of social supports in times of stress. If the person has good social supports, they can share the burden. People are encouraged to gather with friends, share their thoughts and their sorrows in addition to doing things to take your mind off things.

I am as guilty as most of the rest of America or going into crisis-television overload. I wanted to share in the joy when they found people alive, I wanted answers that just are not to be had at the moment. I wanted Dan Rather to tell me it was all a hoax and the Twin Towers were still standing. But he didn’t. It is all horrifically real.

Thinking about the personality styles, the thinkers were driven to action (or at least talking about action). They made donations, offered services etceteras. The feelers’ feelings are so overwhelming and it takes so much energy to keep them under control that they have to get them out, then they will have energy to act. There is nothing wrong with a good hard cry, but there is nothing wrong with not crying either.

The grief process involves denial/numbness, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. You may go through these phases more than once and may not go through them in this order. Anger protects us from fear: fear of death, the unknown, loss of personal control, failure, isolation, and rejection. All of us have had to think about the reality of death and our beliefs therein. There are many unknowns for individuals as well as the country in general. We were temporarily out of control and do not ever want to feel that helpless again. And, for some of us there is a sense of failure. Address these fears in every way they apply to you and you will be on the road to acceptance.

There are many resources available for counseling during this time of need. Contact me, United Way Information and Referral or your local place of worship for resources that are being provided at reduced rates or free of charge.

About the author


Add your comments to the discussion on Dawn Elise Snipes' column in the Wellness Issues forum.

Contact Dawn-Elise: wellness@policeone.com







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