In the first aftermath of a tragedy, victims experience numbness and shock. Shock gives way to tears, one of the very first stages of grief. All anyone can do is try to feel safe again on the most basic level. Hold each other. Don’t be afraid to ask for contact. Reach out and tell your loved ones that you do love them; don’t let it be taken for granted. Feel your fear. Be with it and allow it to be released naturally. Pray. Grieve with others if you can, alone if you must.
Numbness and tears lead to the second stage, in which powerful emotions rise to the surface, often after being buried for years or decades. Feelings of age and sorrow will erupt. You will feel deeply afraid in a way you have never experience before. The most common incidents–the slam of a door, a car backfiring, a surprise tap on the shoulder–could trigger panic.
The third stage of suffering comes when you feel that you must take action, either to heal or to strike out against the attacker or to lend a hand to other victims.
Nothing alleviates suffering like reaching out to another person who is suffering. Go and help, be of service if only in the smallest way. Any gesture–whatever you feel safe to do–is a step toward healing.
Adapted from The Deeper Wound: Recovering the Soul from Fear and Suffering, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2001).