Catholic Free Press

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  • Apr
  • 25

Finding healing after bombing tragedy

Posted By April 25, 2013 | 12:58 pm | Lead Story #2

By Tanya Connor

The voice of the child killed in the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is as powerful as those of other prophets for peace.
Ernest Rivard, pastoral assistant at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Northborough, responded to that tragedy by proclaiming this message.
Others offered other ways of finding healing and growth.
Mr. Rivard recalled pictures of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old bombing victim, and Easter Season Scriptures about Jesus, the Bread of Life.
“Two of the images we saw – Martin at his first Communion … And … that poster – appeal for peace because of the violence going on in Dorchester and Boston,” he mused. “This little boy being a prophet in his own neighborhood. … Martin is speaking to the whole world now. …
“Yes, he was killed terribly. But he’s risen in a new way and he speaks to all of us, and it gives us cause to think, ‘How powerfully have I spoken for peace?’”
Mr. Rivard responded by making a poster with the photo of Martin holding his poster which says, “No more hurting people. Peace.”
Beneath it Mr. Rivard wrote: “‘… and a little child will lead them.’ (Isaiah 11:6) He walks among among giants now.” He added quotes about peace from Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Archbishop Oscar Romero – and little Martin.
Mr. Rivard said OfficeMax in Marlborough, where he has posters made, donated this one, which he displayed in the church gathering space. It was “just kind of a quiet witness, point of reflection for people,” he said.
“It was very powerful to pray the Litany of Saints for all the people who were hurt and the people who were killed,” said Virginia Boland, administrator of religious education at St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough. She was speaking about a prayer service she helped their pastor, Father Stephen M. Gemme, plan for April 16.
“We just really felt like it needed to be done,” she said. “It’s kind of a scary time for everybody.” She said the service included adoration, a Gospel reading, praying of the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet, and drew about 150 people.
“Once again somebody felt, ‘The death of another is a way of furthering my agenda,’” Father Michael J. Roy, pastor of St. Roch Parish in Oxford, said, recalling a point he made at an ecumenical service April 17. “The fingerprints of Satan are all over that.”
At the service at Oxford’s Grace (Episcopal) Church, whose pastor suggested it, they prayed for those hurt and killed in the bombing, and for the perpetrators, Father Roy said. The pastor and people of Oxford’s First Congregational Church participated, as did people from Zion Lutheran Church in Oxford and St. Ann’s, the Catholic parish in North Oxford, he said.         Deacon William M. Griffin, who serves at St. John, Guardian of Our Lady Parish in Clinton, highlighted the importance of prayer and listening to help people heal. He is a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist for adults at North Central Human Services and Community Health Connections, both in Gardner.
“We’re not used to that in our society,” he said of bombing scenes. “We see that on T.V. in war zones … bodies on the ground. … The closest we came to that was 9-11.”
When such things happen, people feel shock and disbelief, he said. Some go into a daze. Some seek to protect themselves or others. Some have flashbacks to previous traumas. At some point reality sets in, like when people saw Martin’s photo and realized a child died, he said.
Children especially can feel unsafe after such tragedies, he said. They expect adults to protect them.
“It’s important for parents and adult figures to listen to children,” he said. “They need to have an opportunity to express their feelings, validate that this was a terrible experience: there are bad people. But there are a lot of good people. We have to pray for the people, pray for the people that hurt others, give them the validity of our faith. God’s in control.”
Praying, and “accepting the person and being present to them,” is the greatest gift one can give, he said; “It’s the gift of love Jesus asked us to give to each other.” Given these, most children and adults heal, he said.
Those still inhibited by fear may need short-term professional help, he said. He said that doesn’t mean they’re losing their minds; they’re just responding to the trauma.
Emergency service crisis teams respond to people in emotional crisis, and special ones have set up for this tragedy, he said. He said one can learn more about them from hospital emergency rooms.
When seeking such help, it’s important to choose someone whose expertise matches one’s need, not just any professional, said James Kelly, owner and director of Kelly Funeral Home, who has run grief education meetings and radio shows.
A knee-jerk reaction is to seek a doctor or psychiatrist, said the member of Our Lady of Providence Parish in Worcester. But they are to help with medical issues, not conflicting emotions, he said.
To deal with tragedy, some people may express themselves verbally or artistically, others may do something for others, he said.
He gave an example of doing what one needs to. A man in a cemetery yells, “Why did you die and leave me?” A casual observer might say, “He needs help.” But Mr. Kelly says, “What you’re witnessing is the help.” This might make the observer uncomfortable, but shouldn’t cause the mourner to conform to the observer’s comfort level, he said.
Grief support groups help some people, because “you are validated in your experience by other people who have … similar challenges,” he said.
“It’s always better to confront the reality rather than sweep something under the carpet,” he said. “Honesty is always better than creating a lie. …  “We need to absorb loss, not fall victim to the notion that you can or should get over it. We have to learn how to live with loss.”