Learning to handle the unthinkable in midst of terror and pain


Matthew Schwartz

Equinox Staff


In today’s society, traumatic events happen all too frequently. This can be seen in the recent events in Boston, Mass. and West, Texas. According to the American Psychological Association, a majority of people will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime.

It is how people deal with these events that makes all the difference.

Assistant Director at the Counseling Center Mona Anderson said that there are a variety of emotions that people experience after a traumatic event.

“[A person’s] emotions are going to be dependent of their proximity to the event. Some of the primary emotions are anxiety, fear, anger and certainly a great deal of sadness. Somebody who has been directly affected is going to be in a state of shock and disbelief at the beginning. This is where a lot of the anxiety comes from,” Anderson said.

After these initial emotions, people cope with trauma in a variety of ways.

Anderson stated that there is no right or wrong way to cope with these types of events or experiences. “What usually is most helpful is to try to stay on your routine as much as possible. It is important to try to get enough sleep and make sure you’re eating. All of these activities that appear to be mundane become very important to keep the person moving and keep them engaged,” Anderson commented.

These daily routines and tasks might be difficult after experiencing trauma. According to Anderson, the repetition of the event is re-playing in the brain.

“I always recommend that people don’t watch TV. Even for someone that wasn’t there, that can create a lot of trauma. Watching the repletion in the media is not helpful in any way,” Anderson added.

Anderson continued to comment on how friends and family can help with the coping process.

“The best thing is to first ask ‘What do you need?’ Very often someone who has experienced a traumatic event tends to want to isolate him or herself and not talk about it. Sometimes they just want people to back off and let them know when they are ready to talk about it. That is going to be more helpful than being intrusive or not acknowledging it at all,” Anderson commented.

Anderson stated that it is important for students to be aware of what resources are available on campus. She cited the Critical Incident Support Team.

According to Anderson the team is made up of students, faculty and staff. After an event occurs that affects a large amount of people, the team is available.

They are trained in a national protocol for helping people de-brief the traumatic experience.

According to Vice President of Student Affairs Andrew Robinson, seeking support from the community is vital for the healing process.

On Monday, April 22, a week after the Boston Marathon bombings, students, faculty, and staff gathered on the Fiske Quad to have a moment of silence.

More than 100 people were in attendance. The moment of silence was followed by the playing of “Taps” and remarks from Interim President Jay Kahn.

“One of the reasons I helped coordinate the moment of silence program on Monday is because I think it’s important for students to know that others are going through the same thing,” Robinson stated.

Robinson went on to comment about how we can help each other cope after a traumatic event.

“A big part of it [the healing process] is acknowledging that we are all part of humanity. Sometimes we are isolated, and it is important to realize that we are part of a larger community and that these events impact us all,” Robinson added.

There are also other lesser-known methods and practices to help those coping with a traumatic event.

Junior Jeff Bradley, who is involved with restorative practices, explained that a restorative circle helps repair emotional damage within a community.

“Restorative circle talks are a perfect format for that [coping with trauma] because it makes people more comfortable sharing intimate thoughts. In the circle, the group passes around a talking piece. The person with the talking piece can say whatever they want uninterrupted while others actively listen. It is empowering to share your inner thoughts with people in a group and know that you are not alone,” Bradley said.


If students are affected by recent tragedies and need any help, Assistant Director Mona Anderson urges them to contact the Counseling Center.


Matthew Schwartz can be contacted at


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