When horror strikes, when unfathomable national tragedies like 9/11, Virginia Tech, Columbine, The Dark Knight Rises shooting, Newtown, The Boston Marathon bombings take their place in the national consciousness, when these really horrible things happen, there is no avoiding the fact that each and every one of us will have to process what happened in some way. We each have to rework our understanding of the world to incorporate these horrible acts, the devastating losses, the sense of that we are losing control, the recognition that we never had control to begin with.
Everybody processes these things differently. Many people watch constant coverage, they read things online and share them via social media. Within hours of the news breaking, inspirational memes are plastering our Facebook feeds and Twitter streams. If you are plugged into any kind of external news source, you can’t really get away from them.
Digesting all of that coverage is how some people process these things.
But some of us do not deal well with tragedy that way.
I don’t like to immerse myself in coverage of horrible things. I don’t watch newscasts or listen to radio shows or podcasts. I don’t share inspirational memes. I don’t write posts processing how it makes me feel. When things like the Boston Marathon bombings happen, I shut down. I do not think about it. I don’t seek out information and I don’t engage in places where that information is beings shared.
I used to think that made me an asshole, a freak, social deviant, but now I realize, it’s just makes me me. I don’t process things the way a lot of people process them. I can’t talk about it a lot. I can’t think about it a lot. It comes up, in my mind, here and there over several days, weeks, maybe even months. I shed tears when I’m moved to and I don’t when I’m not. And at the end I, like every one else, incorporate the horrible tragedy into my understanding of the world. I make it a part of my reality.
I spent a lot of yesterday stressing out about my upcoming NT scan, obsessively googling the probability of having a child with Down Syndrome at my maternal age, the positives and negatives of tests which don’t diagnosis but only delineate probabilities. I spent most of my free time–the time I wasn’t standing in front of a class full of students trying to fill 55 minutes with productive learning experiences–having my own silent panic attacks about the possible fate of this life inside me. I felt like such an self-obsessed douche bag for doing that, but upon further reflection, I realize it’s just how I process the feeling of being out of control that something like yesterday’s bombing provokes in me. I don’t know how else to process an event so horrible. So I don’t. And instead, I internalize the feelings of chaos and loss and tragedy into something more familiar, something I’m highly versed at, like freaking out about this pregnancy.
In the wake of a horrible tragedy, I often wonder what the proper etiquette is understood to be, especially when it concerns social media. Is it appropriate to put up any random post about me and my life on the day after a national tragedy? My gut instinct says no, and yet I’m SO THANKFUL to see posts like that in my reader from other bloggers because I want to get away from it all, and it makes me uncomfortable to read the posts where other people are processing their grief. It’s not that I judge people who do post about these things, but since I don’t process grief that way, it’s hard for me to witness other people doing so. And for that reason I really appreciate the posts about whatever else is going on for people, the posts that don’t mention what happened in Boston. It’s not that I’m trying to ignore it, or pretend it never happened. I could never do that. People died. People’s lives were forever altered. But I don’t know how to honor their loss in a public way. It’s just not what feels right for me and my heart.
So do I write about my own panic concerning the upcoming NT scan? Do I post a cute picture of my daughter on Facebook? I chose not to put up the post yesterday but I did post the picture on Facebook, because at that moment I needed to focus on my beautiful, innocent daughter dressed like a chef for cooking day. It was just what I needed to do right then.
And I’m sure there are people who thought I was an asshole for doing that. But I don’t really care. Or better said, i don’t share their judgement of me. Because we all process tragedy and grief differently, and the last thing any of us should be doing is judging others–or ourselves–for how somebody needs to work through their grief.