The Boston Marathon and the Pain You Can’t See

Again this week my writing was interrupted by tragedy. I mean to say not that the tragedy inconvenienced me, but that I was so wrapped up in my own writing that I almost missed it. I was sitting in my home office, a little “cubicle” in our dining room, when my husband texted, “Bombing in Boston. Turn on the TV.”

Since the bombing yesterday, I don’t know how many times I have seen the video replayed, how many interviews with eyewitnesses, how many commentaries on what it all means for our country.

This morning I again turned on the TV and saw a psychologist giving advice about how to talk to your children about such tragedies. I saw that support centers had been set up, hotlines put in place. And I knew we would be hearing about this for a long time.

However, rather than thinking about the losses the victims suffered yesterday, I found myself thinking mostly about the difference between dealing with physical versus emotional tragedies, or losses. And how one is more acceptable to acknowledge than the other.

And now I’m trying to work up to some poignant point about how it’s not fair—it’s not fair that people who have been wounded physically get to air their pain so much more freely than those who are wounded emotionally…but even as I think about writing that, the naysayers in my head start: “This is not the time to air your agenda.” “Show some compassion!” “How can you be so heartless!” “Did you really just say that?!”

Yes, I did.

In no way do I want to diminish the pain of yesterday’s victims (who will no doubt also suffer emotional scars), but when things like this happen, I must admit, I get certain thoughts…and certain questions that make me feel I must be a monster.

Readers, can you tell me, do you ever have these thoughts, too?

When these heinous crimes are committed, and it creates a media aftershock as sweeping as the Boston blasts, do you ever wonder how your life would have been different had it been a physical wound you’d suffered, rather than an emotional one?

Do you wonder: Had your wounds come from a public, graphic, physical injury, would you have healed sooner? Would you have had more support? Would it have been easier to survive, because you had so many at your side? Would it be easier to talk about just because there was no way to hide? Here I want to make a distinction between those who lost limbs and those who lost loved ones—I believe there is an important categorical difference between the two types of tragedies. (Or is there?)

What if I put it like this: Would you rather suffer from a physical malady than from an emotional or a mental one? Finally (and I may regret asking this), am I a monster for even raising such questions at a time like this? Please share your thoughts! (And yes, mine go out to the victims of yesterday, along with my prayers.)


6 thoughts on “The Boston Marathon and the Pain You Can’t See

  1. goingforwardfromthis April 17, 2013 / 12:29 am

    You are not a monster! I agree with you. The emotional pain is harder to cope with and it is less acknowledged. I have said for years now that a physical fight is easier to get past. You said here, “the naysayers in my head start: “This is not the time to air your agenda.” “Show some compassion!” “How can you be so heartless!” “Did you really just say that?!”. The emotional side keeps coming back over and over. You think these things because at some point in your life someone said these things to you and made your “feelings” not important. Your feelings are important! Keep writing and expressing your feelings and opinions. Your readers are here for you.

    • lindseygendke April 17, 2013 / 11:10 am

      Thanks so much for the reply. Of course, after I posted this, I kept hearing more terrible news from Boston about children losing their limbs and a young boy dying, and I again questioned this post! I suppose one kind of pain should not eclipse the other. I just wanted to make much of the emotional implications of sometimes “unseen” tragedy–but there are emotional implications for any kind of tragedy. And I think you’re exactly right: at some point my feelings–sure, I’ll admit they were mine–were not acknowledged. And had they been, perhaps I’d have found a quicker road to healing. I do hope the Boston victims get all the support and listening ears they need so the repercussions of the tragedy won’t be more painful than necessary.

  2. lindawis April 17, 2013 / 2:35 pm

    Yes, there’s lots of pain we can’t see, and you did right to point this out, Lindsey. I like to think that we all hurt for the victims in public tragedies like the Boston bombing because we’ve all experienced pain, physical or emotional, at some point in our lives. Pain is pain, and we are all connected in this way. I like to think most people are being kinder to themselves and others this week because of it.It’s one good thing that can come out of horrific events like this.

    • lindseygendke April 18, 2013 / 10:03 am

      What a good point, Linda, that tragedies can help us remember the important things, can drive us to be kinder to one another. “Pain is pain” is right; perhaps it doesn’t matter what kind it is–but there is a societal difference as to how different kinds are acknowledged, or how they are not.

  3. Susan Holtan April 19, 2013 / 12:41 pm

    The pain on this earth is so deep, it will take no one less than the Creator himself to end it all and bring the healing we are all craving. May we all help speed that day along.
    I love you, lambie. Mom

    • lindseygendke April 22, 2013 / 4:03 pm

      You are right, Mom. He does help even now, but it won’t be until He comes back that all pain is obliterated forever! I can’t wait for that day! Love you too!

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