It’s been a year since the Manchester Arena bombing. This week also saw the start of the Grenfell Tower enquiry. There can be hardly anyone who has not been touched by these events in some way – whether directly or indirectly, professionally or personally. The testimonies of those who survived the events and those who lost loved ones has been all around over the past week. Some have been heart-breaking and some uplifting as people have expressed their own personal experiences. Some people have chosen not to talk publicly or to retreat from all the public memorials and that needs also to be respected.
Following the Manchester Arena bombing and the Grenfell Tower fire, services have been set up to provide psychological help and intervention to people affected and also to provide information that it’s normal to have an emotional response to these terrible events. This was summarised as ‘It’s OK not to be OK’.
I think this is a helpful reminder that emotions are normal and not to be brushed away or distracted from if we’re distressed. Sometimes it can be hard to sit with emotions like sadness, anger, grief (amongst others) but sometimes that’s what is needed. Problem-solving can be a distraction when what’s needed is the emotional experience to allow the emotions to be processed.
I think we saw this in Manchester earlier this week when people came to the events in Albert Square that marked the anniversary with music. People came together and shared their emotions – singing, dancing, crying, laughing – and connected with each other. Some people didn’t come and hopefully their experience was right for them.
In our work as psychological professions, we often experience others’ strong emotions and sometimes we will experience similar emotions. I’ve certainly felt angry and sad about the experiences some of the people I have worked with have endured. It doesn’t mean I’m not OK but perhaps if I didn’t feel anything I wouldn’t be OK? Also, sharing these feelings with peers can help and keep us connected in the world. Our work has an impact on our lives and our lives on our work.
So, it is not just that it’s OK not to be OK, we also need to stay connected with each other. I think this was summed up for Manchester in the phrase – a city united (with all the connotations).