Yalom (gotta love him) refers to looking at death as staring into the sun. Hearing about the experiences of the Blanketmen last night and Father Gary’s escorting of the children to school and the death threats and real fear of bombing…I feel like I’ve been trying to stare into the sun. There’s an unreal quality to thinking of death and the threat of death. In the play The Wall, which is an account of Jews living in the Warsaw ghetto, one of the characters says something to the effect of the reason no one will believe that they will really be killed is that you simply cannot convince a healthy human being that death is really coming. It just goes against the grain. Part of the difficulty with repeatedly traumatized people seems to be this paradoxical relationship with repeated knowing that death is coming and the resistance to knowing it. The Blanketmen shared that they had developed a black humor that kept them going and some of the examples of this were morbid, gruesome, and simultaneously glorious. I am constantly amazed at the capacity for resilience in human beings. I am also amazed at how much horror we subject each other to. Talking to the Blanketmen and other Republican Irishmen over a couple pints last night, they described the splintering of the IRA into less focused groups of desperate people seeking some kind of purpose and how it has led to some seemingly meaningless acts of violence. I found myself relating it to what I have seen of the convoluted pathway that African Americans have traveled (and continue to travel) from slavery to freedom that has led to some finding identity in street gangs. The role of trauma, oppression, and violence in both had many parallels. I was especially struck by Philip’s description of how the youth in Northern Ireland have lost their sense of clear identity and cannot see a future for themselves. He could’ve easily been talking about some of the youth coping with community violence back home in the States. As I think about how I will take all of what I have experienced home with me and into my future work as a clinican, I find I am squinting and shading my eyes trying to see without being blinded and unable to see it all at once. I am overwhelmed by the enormity of the whole experience. I am in ‘the overwhelm’ (to use Bridget’s term) of sitting with trauma and I am trying to sort out the glints of hope and faith in the possibility of a better future as people here in Northern Ireland and elsewhere work to build collaborative communities and support each other in healing. I feel like it has been such a short time and also a lifetime that I have been in Belfast. I have gotten so much out of this and yet I know I haven’t actually gotten it all yet. Tomorrow I fly home and I know that over the next week, the next month, the next year, and beyond I will continue to find pieces of the puzzle. I know I want to do trauma work, and even if I never do more international work (and given how much difficulty I’ve had being separated from my husband and children, I may not), the universality of trauma makes it all applicable.