On September 11th, 2001, I remember coming home from school to watch the television, the smoke and sirens in New York City filling the screen. I was greeted by my mother who was lying in the bed, a place she knew well. Nearly two years prior, my mother underwent a spinal surgery that was performed incorrectly, leaving her in chronic pain. As a result, my older brother took on the role of primary caregiver—cooking, cleaning, working to pay our household bills, and helping our mother with her daily care. Amidst the hysteria, my older brother carried on as usual. His caregiving responsibilities never ceased even as the outside world reeled from the horrific attack. He wasn’t afforded the space and time to stop, reflect, or mourn.
I woke up last week to the news of the police shootings in Dallas, Texas. Only a few days earlier, I woke up to the news of the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Before that, the suicide bombings throughout Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the cafe attack in Bangladesh, and the airport attack in Istanbul, Turkey. I could keep going. The tragedies of late have left us broken and in pain. I grieve with you. I am also reminded of the caregivers like my brother, whose daily lives must go on regardless. How can you process a national tragedy when your own home is teetering on the edge of calamity? When the survival of your loved one rests in your hands, you have an intimate familiarity with matters of life and death. For the caregiver, trauma is always personal.
The hyperconnectivity of our modern world allows war, mass shootings, natural disasters, political revolutions, and terrorist attacks to enter our lives with an endless frequency. Caregivers already experience emotional overload, and the high visibility of national tragedies only heighten the risk of secondary traumatic stress. The constant news alerts can paralyze and depress. The scarce remains of your emotional reserves must be fiercely protected—turn the television off. The many duties of caregiving will not allow for long, calming walks on the beach and lazy afternoons spent journaling. Nevertheless, contemplate, cry, and be angry whenever you can. You deserve the moment to be human.
This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post.
An American Doctoral Researcher at the University of Birmingham in England, Caregiver Advocate, Mental Health Counselor