A new sense of community emerged this week in Boston. Last Monday we watched in fear as tragedy marred one of the most beautiful, treasured days of the year in our city. We held on through an anxiety-ridden week, hugging our friends a bit tighter and smiling warmly at strangers. Friday night closed with the end of a day-long manhunt and city-wide lock down. The city breathed a collective sigh as the suspect was caught. People ventured out into their neighborhoods, finally turning off the news.
This week, signs of strength are everywhere. Café signs show love for the city scribbled in chalk hearts, restaurants offered free meals to law enforcement personnel, and Syrians sent a message love through a painted sign---that was shared thousands and thousands of times on Facebook. The spirit of this city is still here, yet the questions of mourning and healing are only beginning to emerge:
As a community, how do we grieve? How do we heal?
Acts of violence, so close to our home affect us. The effect may be new or it may trigger old emotions. In the past week, I have watched those around me struggle with emotions spanning from indifference to shock to deep sadness. I urged my immediate community to be compassionate with the experience and allow yourself to be affected:
It is okay if you feel off this week. It is okay that you can’t concentrate or don’t want to sit in the library, even though you have so much to do. It is okay if you feel grief, or emotions you can’t identify, even though you don’t know anyone who was physically hurt or weren’t even at the event. It is also okay if you don’t feel anything. It is okay if this tragedy reminds you of other losses in your life. It is okay to miss people or moments that have nothing [on the surface] to do with what happened on Monday.
In consideration of healing, I return to stories. The world of grief and healing is full of stories. Stories that make our hearts ache and bring tears to our eyes. Stories that touch us deeply, resonating with our experiences, bring our losses closer to the surface, and in their own way, heal us. My own story of the Boston Marathon encapsulates one of my best memories: the spring, the sheer accomplishment of running 26.2 miles, and, which I did not know at the time, my last day with my father. In honor of that experience and the events of the week, this past Tuesday, I put on my running shoes and Red Sox shirt, and headed out the door into the spring air. What I needed to do was run, remember that joyful day, and spend time feeling through the grief that bubbled up out of the surface in the face of new tragedy.
Feeling, hurting, and all the other associated emotions are signs of life, signs of caring for one’s community. Be compassionate with yourself in this process. Do what feels right for you. Heal through allowing yourself to engage with the process. This is our first step as individuals that make up a truly wonderful community. As a community, we can soak in the love pouring from all corners of the world. And, within our responsibility to love these “corners” back, as individuals did by holding up a sign sending love back to Syria in Davis Square, we can reflect this sense of healing and hope.
The city I envision heals fear through love and community.