Building community resiliency
OpinionGuest columnist

Building community resiliency

We all have both the ability to “lean in” to a closer circle and “lean out” to a more removed circle.

How do we take steps toward becoming a more resilient community?

We know being a neighbor means something special in Pittsburgh. As a resiliency center, the 10.27 Healing Partnership was tasked with supporting communal healing and resiliency-building after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting on Oct. 27, 2018. We have been supporting this community with mental health and community resources since 2019 and, since our inception, we’ve been touched by the outpouring of support and care between community members.

We anticipate that some emotions and old wounds will reawaken during the trial over the next few months. We believe every person has the power to navigate this time in a way that is healthy for themselves while standing in solidarity with their community.

Standing in solidarity and being a good neighbor can be more complicated than it first seems. How do we receive and give support? How do we take care of ourselves while staying in close relationship with others who are also uniquely affected by the synagogue shooting and the ongoing trial? How do we stand up against antisemitism while avoiding becoming overwhelmed and burnt out?

One way to think about a community that has gone through a mass violence event is through concentric circles. These circles show grief and trauma relative to the event. In the center are the victims — in this case, those who were killed in the synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018. Around that center are those who were most immediately affected, like the families and survivors. Around them are first responders and immediate helpers who often experience secondary trauma.

Beyond those concentric circles are those who experienced levels of vicarious trauma — those who are Jewish or shared other identities with the victims and those who share proximity with those who were killed or directly impacted. We all have shared humanity that makes the loss and horror of this attack painful, but we do not all have the same relative proximity to the center of the circle.

To strengthen our community, we can all use these kinds of tools to find insight into how some may be very close to the loss and require support. This does not explain or determine how anyone feels; it is just a way for us to begin to see how we can balance giving and taking support.

To identify where you sit without judgment — to recognize that some may be more directly impacted, but that you can also look inward and feel the loss and your own trauma without comparison to others — takes deep insight. Feeling your own emotions and recognizing that the pain you experience is real is the first step toward building a more resilient community.

We all have both the ability to “lean in” to a closer circle and “lean out” to a more removed circle. We can all be supported and supporters. A good rule of thumb when using these concentric circles is to lean into those who were more directly impacted by offering support, solidarity and empathy.

We can also lean out to those who are in similar concentric circles or are less directly impacted than us and seek support and care for ourselves. No matter where you are in these concentric circles you can lean in and lean out.

Recognizing that the trauma from all of these circles is real and deeply painful is very important and healthy. Everyone should be able to feel their own pain and seek help, both from counselors and from one another. It also helps those most directly affected by forging a more healing and resilient broader community that is tuned in and willing to be empathetic and trauma-informed.

Leaning on one another creates greater community resiliency, connection and healing than suffering alone. A community full of people who are isolated from one another and who won’t let themselves feel their own emotions is fragile and is not well suited for healing, either for those most directly impacted or for those affected vicariously. We believe that healing people can heal people — in any healing journey, we each learn more about ourselves and the tools to support others.

The everyday acts of kindness, compassion and love that we have seen neighbors bring to each other have been invaluable, and they have been most impactful when people offer them from a place of understanding and insight into when they should “lean in” to support or “lean out” to seek support for themselves.

This neighborliness and solidarity, even when it seems small, is what brings us into meaningful community with one another. PJC

Maggie Feinstein is the executive director of the 10.27 Healing Partnership.

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