There are not enough words to convey the distress, heartache and sorrow I feel for the victims of the recent Boston Marathon bombing. My heart not only goes out to them now, for what they experienced at that moment of the explosions and these days and weeks after as their bodies heal, but also for what they will face forever in the future.
The psychological impact of a traumatic event at such magnitude as this can forever change us and the way we look at everything in life. I personally can empathize with the people who have experienced amputations of a limb as I also lost a leg in a traumatic accident over 17 years ago.
Although my accident was just that, an accident, it was traumatic and unexpected. I can however, at least find some solace in the fact that it wasn't a deliberate, evil act directly meant to maim and kill. It was simply a different kind of "stupidity".
According to a CBS News report, as of April 16, 2013, one day after the bombing, there were at least fourteen confirmed leg amputations of adults with two additional patients still at risk. There were also two children in critical condition with severe leg injuries which surgeons were fighting to avoid amputation.
Suddenly, their main focus every day is the fact that they are now "amputees". Not only do they have to focus on their bodies healing but physical therapy begins almost immediately, and the process of fitting and having a prosthesis designed specifically for them is started.
In addition, the emotions and mental anguish that accompanies the grieving process still has to be dealt with at the same time. Just the emotional upheaval can be exhausting in itself, but the completion of this process is imperative in order to find the fulfillment and peace in their lives that everyone deserves.
The arduous, challenging physical demands of physical therapy and daily adjustments to their new world, as they attempt to become as mobile as possible will undoubtedly take its toll on their emotions as well as their bodies.
It is impossible to prepare someone for the unknown and the changes ahead of them as they attempt to learn different and new ways to accomplish the same tasks as they had previously until this point Even though they may be able to do most of the same things as before, they will from here on need to be done in a bit of a different way.
Now, as the ones that have lost a limb face the future, the real work begins. There is a grieving process which inevitably will have to be completed in order to make peace with the "death" of a part of themselves. Even though these stages may not happen in this exact order, as it is a personal process, most do occur for everyone. I personally experienced every stage at least once and a few many times for several years. According to "The Five Stages of Grief" written by Julie Axlerod, the stages are as follows.
The first part of this process is denial and isolation. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the initial shock and is a normal reaction.
The next part of the process is anger. When the denial and isolation effects that have been masking the situation begin to wear, reality and pain re-emerge and we are not ever ready. The intense pain and hurt we feel all the way to the vulnerable core of ourselves, is redirected and expressed as anger. This anger might be directed at anyone or anything, inanimate objects, friends, family and even complete strangers.
The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is most often a need to regain control. This is where we often second guess ourselves; if only I hadn't ran that day, if only I had paid more attention to my surroundings etc.
Depression. There are two types of depression associated with mourning. The first is a reaction to practical implications related to the loss. We become sad and regretful. We worry about costs, loss of income, and the ability to still provide for our families and loved ones for instance.
The second type of depression is more subtle and perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our "loved one" farewell.
And the final stage of mourning is acceptance. We may never see beyond our anger or denial, especially if the event (death) was sudden and unexpected. This is an opportunity to make our peace and is often marked by withdrawal and calm. Acceptance is a gift that is not always afforded to everyone.
My sincerest and heartfelt wish is that everyone that was affected by the horrific events that day in Boston, April 15th, 2013, be blessed with that gift.