When the Roof Falls In
Casey had her apartment cleaned numerous times and eventually moved to the Boston area, where she lives now with her 2-year-old daughter and works for a construction firm. She still suffers from several health issues as a result of the attack, she says, and has seen a therapist to try to deal with the emotional fallout. But because the person who sent the letters has never been found (the FBI's prime suspect committed suicide before any final verdict could be made), the event remains ever present in her life. "On a day-to-day basis, I think about these attacks. Because we're such a small group, we are often forgotten, but we were victims of terrorism as well," says Casey. "I find it disheartening that we haven't been able to sit in a courtroom, look a potential perpetrator in the eye, and say, 'This is how you changed my life so drastically.' My sense of security—that was completely robbed from me."
What she has gained, however, is a greater appreciation for the family and friends who rallied around her, along with a new "family" of others affected by anthrax. "This is an odd thing that doesn't happen to very many people, so it's hard to explain to others," she says. "We've all had such similar experiences, we are able to bounce different feelings and ideas off each other and share thoughts. It's been really beneficial knowing the other survivors."
Dr. Boss's Analysis: Don't insist on closure.
Reaching out to other anthrax survivors is key to Casey's ability to make a life for herself after terrorism ripped away her sense of stability. Seeking therapy is a great step as well, although talking one-on-one doesn't always provide a complete solution in the case of ambiguous loss—and what is more ambiguous than losing your sense of security?
Research shows that movement therapy—walking, dancing, yoga, for example—can help link the mind to a more peaceful rhythm of the body. Also, Casey needs a sense of justice, but she's not likely to get the one she wants soon. In cases like this, if we insist on closure, we won't heal. Our only choice is to envision new options—and that's difficult because when we're highly anxious or depressed, our creativity shuts down. So the best thing to do is to surrender, sit back, listen and feel, and be aware. Talk with other people. Go to the theater, enjoy music, get out in nature—in other words, stimulate your imagination.