Father Michael Lapsley, founder of the Institute for Healing of Memories, talks with Ethan Vesely-Flad about his own experience as the victim of bomb attack in South Africa and what challenges face survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing. Lapsley lost both arms and the use of an eye and and ear in a 1990 letter bomb attack. At the Huffington Post:
I think everybody goes to the emergency room to get aid for broken bones, or whatever, but people are often afraid to get help when it’s about their emotions and spiritual stuff. I think trauma raises questions about our fragility as human beings — our vulnerability, but also our mortality — that can be quite disturbing for some people. Especially in our western society, [this can mean] suddenly looking death in the face in new ways.
I would say that anything that is life threatening can be life changing. There are different ways in which we can change or grow, but the likelihood of growth is hugely more so if we have people around who support us and encourage us and walk beside us. And also who recognize that the society is about “Get over it — fast, fast, fast, fast,” whereas people often have to travel a journey that involves going one step backwards, or two steps, before they can go forward. For some that will be a journey of days; for others months; other years.
Sometimes, you will heal through the journey in time; but every so on, you may find that you have to take more steps, and you will. And sometimes it is another trauma that happens that makes us realize that there is still unfinished business from the previous trauma that we haven’t dealt with. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t heal at all; it just means that we didn’t heal as much as we could at that time, but there are more steps to be taken.
He also notes the importance of interfaith cooperation in times of crisis. “Often, faith communities have works of compassion that they can do more effectively together than separately. So a horrible occasion can provide new possibilities from which people can take and grow. It’s interesting, I watched the [April 18 interfaith memorial] service at the cathedral in Boston, where they had people of different faiths. The beauty of it is that whatever your faith tradition, you are hearing some of the jewels of wisdom from the other faith traditions, which normally in the mosque, the temple, or the church, you don’t hear. But given the occasion, wow, what an insight that comes from the holy Scriptures or the believers of other faiths that can enrich and be precious for everybody who is hearing them.”
Read the full interview here.