September 11th changed America and chances are it changed you. Images of that tragic day pop into your mind without warning and you have a constant feeling of anxiety. Awful questions come to mind as well. Will the terrorists strike again? Where will they strike? How many innocent people will be killed?
You may attribute your worries to news reports reports when they're really anticipatory grief -- a feeling of loss before a death or dreaded event occurs. The stress of anticipatory grief can become unbearable. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to turn your fear into hope.
1. Focus on the present. Though anticipatory grief shifts your thoughts to the future, you have the mental power to shift them back to the here and now. You have this day and may as well live it to the fullest.
2. Model calm behavior for kids. According to The National Association of School Psychologists kids are reassured by a parent's calm behavior and words. Though you may not feel calm on the inside, try to model calm behavior on the outside for the sake of your children.
3. Pay attention to your children's health. Stress takes a toll on kids so make sure your children eat balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. While you're at it, pay attention to your own health.
4. Talk about terrorism. Voicing your worries is better than pushing them to the back of your mind. Share your terrorism thoughts with family members, neighbors, and church friends. You may even wish to start a support group.
5. Talk to your kids about terrorism. Kids' fears can magnify quickly and you don't want that to happen. So tell them the truth: America was attacked by terrorists. Say the attack upset you and it's OK for them to be upset. Be brief and use words your kids will understand.
6. Limit television viewing. Just because there's 24-hour news on television doesn't mean you have to watch it. Young children should NOT see terrorism footage. Turn off the set and get them involved in somethng else.
7. Know your community resources. Locate the nearest hospital, police station, fire station and drive the routes. Put a list of emergency numbers by the phone. Read stories about hospital workers, policemen and women, and fire fighters to young children.
8. Stay in touch with family. Regular contact with family members will prevent needless worry. Give family members a list of contact names, addresses, and phone numbers if you're going away.
9. Make a terrorism plan. Terrorism expert Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH thinks every family, including his own, needs a plan that includes a central meeting place, redundant systems (such as multiple cell phones) and a back-up system. Distribute the plan to family members.
10. Shift your thinking. Sheila Jowsey, MD, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist, recommends a shift in thinking "from hopelessness to helpfulness." You do this, Jowsey says, by focusing on available resources and staying current on terroist information.
You can turn your fear of terrorism into hope. Pick a step and start working on it today!
Copyright 2005 by Harriet Hodgson. All rights reserved. Go to www.harriethodgson.com to learn more about her work.
Harriet Hodgson has been a nonfiction writer for 26 years. Her recent work focuses on health and she is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, co-authored by Lois Krahn, MD, is her 24th book. Hodgson describes the book as "balm for a wounded soul" and it is available from amazon.com by entering the title or her name. She has also written Alzheimer's: Finding the Words (a communication guide)and The Alzheimer's Caregiver, both published by John Wiley & Sons and available on Amazon. Hodgson is hard at work on her next book, Doctor in the House: An Inside Look at Medical Marriage.