For many years, the days before and after September 11th would bring a halt to Robert Ekblaw’s life. He would be unable to function. He had been present around the Twin Towers in Manhattan, New York on that fateful day back in 2001. Since then, he just hadn’t been able to shake what would come over him around that time of year. That all changed this year. And, it happened because of what he is creating in the world.
Robert is a Team 2 Quarter 2 participant in Landmark Education’s Team Management and Leadership Program. He has created a Game in the World which has pulled him forward and shifted the trauma he felt around the events of September 11th. Robert’s game, Healing Helpers, focuses on providing a way for individuals affected by traumatic events to transform their grief into a contribution for others.
The idea behind Healing Helpers was inspired by John, who after having lost his son in the war in Iraq, created a fellowship room in the Albany, New York airport to provide a safe and supportive space for service people and their families to spend time together before the service person flies off to combat. The room serves as a tribute to John’s lost son.
John’s contribution to others after his loss was a vital element in moving Robert Ekblaw to create Healing Helpers. Out of his own experience with grief and trauma, Robert chose to establish teams of diverse people to support others who are grieving. The teams do this by creating tributes to the lost loved ones. The creation of these tributes provides a way for people to go outside of themselves. It is a “pass it forward” concept that works on a deep heart level.
Robert is promoting the concept of healing through contribution by utilizing support groups, hospital administrators, therapy groups, crisis intervention counsels, Red Cross relief coordinators, and many others. He targets and approaches any place where people typically go to recover from the trauma of the loss of loved ones or from having some form of traumatic experience. Many of the people in these groups and agencies make up the teams in Healing Helpers.
Robert sees his Game as creating teams who make something transformative available to people who are grieving. It generates a form of support that enables these people to create whatever it is that will empower them in being of service to others who are similarly suffering. The teams Robert has been forming are teams created to support families, victims, and survivors of traumatic events. These groups will do more than assist the person through their grief, though. They will be shown how to redefine life as a tribute to lost loved ones. The person will be empowered to take a tragic event and turn it into a positive event for others, a reason to move forward.
Teams are showing up for Robert, though slowly. Using the traditional arena where people go to heal from trauma to spread the word, Robert sees these organizations and professionals as megaphones for his Healing Helpers game. He envisions adding an additional stage in the traditional list of stages for healing from grief – the additional stage is one of creation.
For Robert personally, the creation of this game Healing Helpers has provided completion – completion of the devastating effects caused by his proximity to the disaster of 9/11. This year, instead of being sick and lethargic, Robert found himself to be an unstoppable force and hugely productive. On September 13, he produced more results than he ever thought possible in a position he holds in his Toastmasters organization.
He has also seen results in his Game itself. One of the outcomes so far has been that a parent of a fallen Iraqi war soldier is making arrangements with various local organizations to pay for bus trips for local school students to go to the Saratoga Battlefield and learn about the Revolutionary War and its impact on the local community.
Another resulting project is that someone who had their family displaced by Hurricane Katrina is arranging for groups to go to the Discovery Center at Pine Bush, New York to learn how weather and environmental conditions affect the soil. There they will also learn techniques to build homes and buildings that work “in harmony” with the surrounding ecosystem.
Two out-patients are also looking at gathering community to be of support to others who are in grief.
Robert sees his game as becoming an addition in any and all groups and organizations that work with people who are grieving. He sees supporting people to make a contribution to others, is a means of healing. He also sees that this process will fit into places like oncology units, for example, in hospitals all around the country and the world. Once we see how we can contribute to others, a whole new world of possibility arises.
Robert and his team are looking into creating a website to make networking, brain storming, contributions and ideas more accessible for Healing Helpers. And then, who knows where it will expand from there. The important accomplishment, though, is that the Game is moving and the healing process has begun.
Written by Shash Broson. Edited by Sheila Blackmon.