By Alan Koenigsberg, M.D.
It is almost three weeks now since the Oct. 7 invasion of Israel and I was asked to write about dealing with trauma.
Over 1,000 people were killed, so it’s reasonable to assume five to 10 times that many were injured. They suffered both physical trauma and the emotional trauma of losing loved ones.
The almost 10 million Israelis suffered both the emotional and spiritual loss of loved ones, fellow soldiers, friends and family.
The country suffered the pain of the murder of children and other innocent civilians going about their daily activities.
This unimaginable attack immediately brings back memories of the Holocaust, as well as the 9/11 attack in the U.S.
The combination of painful memories with current physical and emotional pain brings several coping mechanisms…rage, fear, sadness, desire for retribution, elimination of future threats, helping those who were injured, self-preservation, along with many others.
This is true in Israel, as well as here in the States. Many of us have close friends or relatives living in Israel, as well as many Israelis here with sons and daughters who served in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), volunteering to go back to help.
Dealing with this trauma hits us in the guts and hits hard. Having grown children volunteering to risk their lives to defend the country they love is both a source of extreme pride and crippling fear for their safety.
Having loved ones in harm’s way is a fear that has been part of our heritage for generations.
There are many ways of dealing with this trauma and people have different ways of coping. For those who are more intimately involved with Israel’s security, they have been on the telephone for the last few weeks, securing aid, funds and additional sources of support. This action aids Israel as well as helping us do something and not feeling helpless.
Others have donated money to help support our troops, as well as sending over supplies.
Some of us have helped increase security at our shuls, with professional, paid security as well as volunteers to help identify congregants we know.
Doing something is one of the best ways to deal with the pain of this trauma. Whatever is a good fit for you is the way to proceed.
If you don’t know where to begin, call one of the local Jewish organizations that you may know and ask for guidance. Ask at your local synagogue. I’m sure the staff at the TJP has resources to help guide you to an organization that will both help Israel and provide a sense of contribution.
When we suffer a trauma, we need to literally take a deep breath, slow down for a few moments and both think and feel. Feel the pain, feel the fear, feel the sense of helplessness, perhaps hopelessness, feel the rage, feel the anger and whatever other feelings surface.
Engage that part of the brain that separates us from the other animals. Think about how to channel those feelings into productive actions. Perhaps make a rough draft list of five or 10 actions you could take. Look through that list and pick three that fit you and are most likely to be doable.
Then proceed. Do. Our Jewish heritage tells us that our lives are valued by what we do.
Take action to move forward and help.
Alan Koenigsberg, M.D., is a practicing psychiatrist and clinical professor of psychiatry at UTSW Medical School in Dallas. He can be reached at email@example.com.