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Sharing Grief, Shock on the WebMD Message Boards

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"For those of us not directly or physically affected by the tragedy, the biggest loss is our sense of safety," Feinberg says. "That's obviously been shattered. The Internet is one way people have found to cope. People want to vent, be heard."

For some, message boards offer an important safety zone, he says. "It's a great opportunity for people to share vulnerability, yet remain anonymous. You can test the waters, see if what you say is accepted. So message boards, chat rooms, provide entrance into a type of group setting that can be helpful."

However, he cautions, don't rely solely on message boards for advice. "Anyone having signs of anxiety or depression -- serious sleep or weight changes, inability to experience pleasure or a heightened startle response, inability to take care of activities of daily living -- should seek professional help," Feinberg says.

And "anyone directly affected by this tragedy should seek professional counseling," he tells WebMD.

Such tragedies have a ripple effect that extends further than might seem obvious, says Feinberg. "Maybe there's an 8-year-old girl living in Cleveland. Her father may be a firefighter. On TV they're talking about firefighters. He's been gone a few days, hasn't come home yet. She doesn't understand what's going on.

"The effects of trauma can be immense, and can drastically change way of life," says Feinberg. "Kids are very perceptive. When there's no karate practice, when mom and dad are acting different, they know things aren't right."

Go to message boards, to chat rooms, "to check in, get your bearings," then move on, Haun tells WebMD. "At some point, you need to turn outward, look beyond yourself, find ways to help like donating blood. When you get to that other-centered orientation, then you're in a healthier mode."

A Glimpse at the Message Boards

But what about the messages themselves, as the smoke cleared and the death toll mounted? Here are just a few messages posted by WebMD users, which likely mirror thoughts around the world.

First, there was shock:

Louise92: To watch that much death, terror, and devastation is so unreal to me. I sit here in the comfort of my home and watch thousands of people die. I watch and am helpless, and I can't even give blood because of lupus and because I have had cancer. What is really ironic is I go to memory therapy today providing I can remember how to get there, yet I know I will never forget yesterday, yet I would love to.

MissyDea (in Australia): I personally feel grief-stricken, as do all Australians, for this could have happened to us.

Hopefullymom (in India): It was horrifying to watch the news and read the newspapers today. We are shell-shocked that there are human beings who can think such evil. Don't they have families, children, wives?

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