The world seems to have a never-ending supply of tragedy. The fire in Hawaii led to the loss of more than 100 lives, the earthquake in Morocco has taken almost 3,000 lives and the Libyan floods have uncovered more than 1,500 lost lives, with a fear that the number will pass 5,000. According to NOAA, 2023 is the worst year on record for billion-dollar disasters in the U.S. The U.S./Mexico border officially became the deadliest border in the world. The child poverty rate in the U.S. went from a historic low of 5.2% in 2022 to 12.4% this year.
I want to hold space for the enormity of these tragedies. In Morocco, there are towns where half the residents have been killed, like the earthquake was some sort of Thanos, the Marvel movie supervillain who wiped out half the population of the universe with the snap of his fingers. Suddenly, an overwhelming number of family, friends and community members, just gone forever.
Some of the recent tragedies are solely created by humans; some are natural disasters. However, even with natural disasters, human behavior has increased the devastation. From crumbling infrastructure due to government neglect (which has been cited as a significant factor in why the Libyan floods have been so devastating) or outright malice and disregard for human life, like the Texas governor’s implementation of barrels floating in the water with razor wire. Paying attention to the systemic issues to minimize future harms is necessary.
As much as the causes need to be explored and understood, especially the components that are a result of government action or inaction, we have to put more effort into addressing the needs of people presently and historically impacted by profound trauma.
We have a growing understanding of the complexities of trauma and how we hold trauma in our minds and bodies. We have an increased understanding of a variety of types of trauma, including generational trauma, complex grief, post-traumatic stress disorder, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, adverse childhood experiences and continuous traumatic stress.
I recently started reading Stephanie Foo’s “What My Bones Know,” an intense story about child abuse and intergenerational trauma. As a journalist, she brings a compelling desire for understanding into her exploration of her own trauma. About a third of the way through the book, she explores a variety of treatment modalities. She discussed breathing exercises, mindfulness, a gratitude practice, yoga, acupuncture and EMDR.
Volunteering/service also have significant mental health improvements. I find this particularly beautiful, the idea that one of the ways we may heal from the harm done to us is to be in service to others. There is an expression that hurt people hurt people, but sometimes they can heal.
Read more of the Sept. 20-26, 2023 issue.