A group of mental health professionals who work with 9/11 first responders and survivors through the World Trade Center Health Program recently published an article in Psychology Today on “What 9/11 Recovery Workers Teach Us About COVID-19 Coping.”
The article explores how lessons from treating responders and rescue and recovery workers are applicable to the present crisis, in which the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 330,000 Americans and disrupted our lives entirely.
First, the authors explain, we must understand our sensitivities and vulnerabilities – the mental scars and memories that remind us of trauma and have the potential to provoke feelings of anger, grief, and helplessness.
Second, when we struggle with painful memories, we often rely on old coping mechanisms. Working with a therapist can help develop new mechanisms that allow us to experience our emotions without feeling overwhelmed.
Third, to move beyond our trauma, we must acknowledge it. Confronting painful memories allows us to process them and better understand how to manage our emotions.
Fourth, finding meaning in our trauma creates an opportunity to navigate the emotions connected to the trauma to transcend grief and, ultimately, to thrive.
The past year has confronted all of us with challenges we could never have imagined, from the loneliness of isolation to job loss and financial insecurity to the death of beloved relatives and friends.
Our community of 9/11 first responders and survivors has suffered terribly during this time, losing hundreds of people whose immune and respiratory systems were compromised by exposure to Ground Zero toxins. Our firm alone has lost more than 100 9/11 survivors to COVID-19.
We will never forget their love and friendship. To continue their legacy, we must learn to transcend our grief.