By Karen Kariuki, Community Initiative Director
On September 11th, 2001, Mary Fetchet lost her son Brad in the attacks on New York City. As a licensed clinical social worker, her response was to start an organization that would advocate on behalf of the families and also provide support. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, Voices Center for Resilience (formerly Voices of September 11th) provided direct services and support to victims’ families, first responders, and survivors. Since then, they have expanded their services beyond 9/11, working with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and individuals to provide research and direct services for victims of tragedy.
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, it is evident that our communities are experiencing trauma. I sat down with Mary for a conversation about how we can care for ourselves and each other as we continue to endure this crisis.
What lessons can we learn from other tragedies like 9/11?
During our conversation, Mary and I discussed how the COVID-19 crisis relates to some of the other tragedies that Voices Center for Resilience has helped guide survivors, responders, and victims through. Although different in many ways, there are lessons that can be learned from the past and ways in which we can better equip our selves and our communities to navigate the trauma we’re experiencing as a result of COVID-19.
““…when you go through a trauma, it’s not over in a day, or a month, or a year.”
How do we care for ourselves and each other as we begin this next phase of re-entry?
As the summer comes to a close and schools and businesses re-open with precautions in place, we are faced with a new set of anxieties. How do we navigate this uncertain “new normal”? Mary and I discussed how to prepare and care for yourself as you move forward through a trauma.
“We have no control over [the uncertainty], so how can we control the anxiety?”
Is there some good that can come from this trauma?
When our Faith Initiative Director, Dr. Matthew Croasmun, interviewed the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains Thomas Solhjem, they discussed this concept of post-traumatic growth that we’ve been hearing more and more about. As Mary and I discussed navigating crises like September 11th or COVID-19, I asked her how we can hold the trauma that we’ve been through, and also hold this potential for growth.
“What we’ve seen with so many families, after all of these tragedies, is that they’ve been able to move forward in their life. It will never be the same, but they’ve found growth out of the experience.”
As this pandemic continues to impact each of us, it’s important to tend to the trauma you’re experiencing. When COVID-19 began, Voices Center for Resilience took lessons they had learned over the years and in their research to create COVID-19 tip sheets. They also hold support groups and weekly webinars for the general public. We encourage you to take advantage of these assets and to take time to care for yourself.