As we emerge from the period of High Holidays and approach the one-year commemoration of the Oct. 27th shooting, many of us are feeling tired.
Tired of feeling sad. Tired of feeling anxious. Tired of feeling guilty for feeling sad and anxious.
And while we are tired of these feelings, part of us also recognizes that avoiding our feelings won’t make them go away.
And yet. How many of us harbor a desperate desire to turn back time and go back to Oct. 26th, 2018? To delete from our memories and our collective experience the death and devastation that occurred that Shabbat morning? To embrace the 11 beautiful souls that were taken from us? To return to a time of joy and innocence?
Of course, we know that we cannot turn back time. And we also know that prior to the attacks, we were not living in a time of innocence. By Oct. 26th, our country had already experienced murderous attacks in communities whose names we already knew from the news as mass casualty shooting sites: Parkland, Charleston, Aurora, Orlando and so many others. But the pain and anguish that has followed us since that terrible Shabbat morning can sometimes feel so relentless that time traveling can seem like a pretty appealing solution.
For many of us, this was our first experience with the confusing and devastating phenomenon of trauma. And the process of healing from trauma can seem almost as unfathomable as the traumatic event itself: When will my sleep go back to normal? When will my worries subside? Why do I feel better on some days and worse on others? When will I finally go back to being my old self? Why am I so upset about the death of people who I didn’t even know? Or: Why does this feel so different from my grief at losing other loved ones?
The farther we get from that terrible Shabbat, the more frustrating it feels to many of us that we are still struggling with these questions. And the truth is, there are no simple answers to these questions. The process of healing from trauma is not like the healing of a scraped knee. We all heal in very different ways, at different paces and with different supports. We express our pain differently, and we hide our pain differently. Successful healing involves slowly integrating this terrible experience into our identities — not being defined by the trauma but also not denying it.
One thing we know for sure is that we heal better when we have the support of others — relatives, friends, neighbors and professionals. This past year has been dark and difficult in many, many ways. But the new year can be a year of healing, renewal, connection and acceptance: that others need our help, that we need their help and that the journey forward will take time and patience.
Shana tova. pjc
Jordan Golin, Psy.D., is president and CEO of Jewish Family and Community Services.