On April 15, 2013 three people died and many were injured in the senseless bombing at the Boston Marathon. Like so many of us when we hear of tragedies caused by sick and selfish people in the news, we are forced to pause. The ultra-sensitive may ask themselves how the world can go on spinning when such travesties take the lives of innocent people. Even the strong-hearted will need to stop for a brief moment to digest and adjust to the bloody images seen on television. Many will ask what is wrong with people in the world today and why is the world becoming so evil. Any answer that we come up with will be subjective at best and based solely on how we perceive the world. Oh sure, there are social scientists that have studied evil, terror, illness and insanity; but during these particularly difficult times these studies do little to provide solace. So what can we do during these times to help us build strength?The answer to this question will vary for different people; however, there are some key strength building activities and actions that can help all of us. Below are five key steps to help you build strength during these difficult times.Step 1: Pause for a moment
This may sound trivial; however, the purpose of this key strength building step is to i) check in with yourself to see what you are thinking, feeling, seeing, and hearing, to ensure you have given yourself the opportunity to truly digest what has happened and to hear your own voice surrounding the circumstance; and, ii) to build empathy for those going through the circumstance, it is important that we do not fully desensitize ourselves to these tragedies and accept them as the norm.Step 2: Talk about it
All of us at some point will need the opportunity to discuss tragedies like this with friends, family, and coworkers. Not only does this help to build a community and strength in numbers but also helps to validate our own feelings and thinking.Step 3: Deal with the fear
For many people, tragedies like this can sting us at the core of our being and shake our souls into fear and panic. Regardless of tragedies like this it is important to deal with fear as soon as possible so that you are able to empower yourself and take action. In some extreme cases this may just mean that you are able to get out of the house to go to work or school without fear of being caught in a similar circumstance. Know that there is no shame in fear however big or small, just know that you don’t have to live every day in fear of tragedy. Seek counseling if fear grips you or a family member to the point of disability.Step 4: Empower yourself
There are many ways to feel empowered after a tragedy; however, it is my belief that forgiveness can be the best form of empowerment. I posted the following on my Facebook account, which freed me from my own personal anger and fears:My thoughts and prayers are with Boston today. I fell asleep with the images of the explosion in my head and woke up with “forgiveness is the answer” on my mind from my dreams. It is truly my belief that people who are capable of this are very ill. They require care and compassion, they deserve treatment and removal from society, and they must still be held accountable for their actions. A message needs to be sent to those that would burden the world by such actions that you will always be found, you will always be held accountable, and you will always be out-numbered by the rest of us who live with care and compassion. I forgive your act… not for you but for me… I forgive you so that I can live without fear. I forgive you so that I may go about my day having faith that I will be okay. I forgive you so that you do not dominate my thoughts, which take control of my mind, body, or soul. I am a citizen of the world, of planet earth, and in my naivety or possibly stupidity or just maybe it’s bravery… I believe that world peace is possible. ~Blessings and courage to all… I have read this many times to help enforce the beliefs I want to have around this circumstance. Feel free to use this statement as your own affirmation.Remember forgiveness isn’t about forgetting, letting them get away with the act, or even making the act okay; instead forgiveness is meant to empower ourselves. We don’t need to find and punish the criminals to forgive them. They must still be held accountable but harboring anger against them or fear because of them empowers their control over our daily lives. Release them through forgiveness to empower yourself.Step 5: Take Action
I can remember a personal circumstance dealing with the aftermath of a house-fire. I was filled with confusion, fear, and anxiety. In these moments, while it may seem somewhat irrational, you must honour yourself by hearing your own voice (see Step 1) so that you can take actions that feel appropriate. In my particular case I had extra smoke detectors installed in the house, one in all the main rooms and one in all of the bedrooms.In the case of the Boston Marathon bombing you may wish to donate money to the families who have lost loved ones or whose limbs have been amputated, rally your friends for a feel good jam session at a local blues pub, or read feel good stories that come out of tragedies like this one.For step five there are some things to be careful with. If your action is becoming unreasonable (i.e. if I had purchased 50 fire extinguishers for a four room house, started triple checking the oven every three minutes, etc.) it is time to seek external help from a qualified professional. Also, some people will feel the best way to take action is to arm themselves with a weapon like a gun or knife to feel as though they are protected or perhaps consider vigilantism. Don’t do it, this will only hinder and distract from the qualified trained professionals doing their jobs.