The Revd Mark Bailey Writes…


The following piece, written in response to recent terrorist attacks, appeared in the July 2017 issue of the West Dever News.

Following on from the terrorist attack in Manchester, I awoke to hear a woman on the radio, who had witnessed the attack, try to make sense of her trauma by stating, “I guess this is now normal. It happens everywhere, all of the time.” I found myself stepping back from those words, “This is now normal.”

A normal response to trauma is to emotionally disconnect from the physical in such way that life somehow goes on around you – you continue to be able to walk and function but you do so in a numbed-out state. What you have witnessed and experienced is too painful, too awful to contemplate, it shatters a capacity to think about what has happened – to allow yourself to ‘feel’. So, you continue to function without contemplating, without engaging with your emotional self. Over time, and perhaps even unwittingly, this, for many victims of trauma, becomes the normalised state. You see this perhaps most profoundly in victims of childhood sexual abuse, where over time, the traumatised, unfeeling state, becomes a way of life. It is almost impossible to remember any other way of being. 

I understand the woman who has just witnessed horrific injuries caused to those who were standing close to her articulating her now damaged world with those words, “I guess this is now normal.” Her world has shattered. And for her undoubtedly there will be many months of reliving awful, horrific memories, flashbacks, and probably finding some comfort for her traumatised mind in the numbed state – keeping at bay the overwhelming intensity of what it is to feel.

And yet I found myself, listening to the radio, having great empathy for this woman, who was there to pick-up her young teenage daughter and take her home safely – and I found myself thinking. “No, this is not normal.” And perhaps the most important task that we, who have not had this first-hand experience of this terrible crime against innocent people have, is to be there for them and for others who might think like them, and to hold to the idea and say publicly, “This is not normal. And never can be normal.”

Terrorist bombings are not normal. And for those of us who can feel the outrageous response to such trauma – then this is our calling – to stand alongside those who are numbed and shocked and left unable to feel – that we will feel for them and not accept this wounding as something to be normalised. We, as a people together, will not allow ourselves to become victims in this way.

God Bless                     Mark