Keep calm and carry on: terrorism, tragedy, mental health

Keep calm and carry on and the good old British stiff upper lip have their place place.  But when it comes to tragedy and terrorism, a stiff upper lip is not good enough.  We cannot just keep calm and carry on.  We need to talk. For the sake of the mental health of a generation, we need to share our feelings.

keep calm and carry on

News of the Manchester attack appeared in my Twitter feed before it broke on BBC breaking news.  I guess that’s inevitable these days.  Tweets reported loud bangs and screaming.  At that stage,  it could have been anything. It could have been nothing. 

Then there was one tweet with a photograph of the foyer at the Manchester Arena and I knew it wasn’t nothing.  When I woke, the full extent of the atrocity was clear.

A couple of weeks later I watched the Ariana Grande concert on the television.  I sobbed, like many others, to her rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.  At the end of the concert, I switched channels to see the London Bridge attack unfolding. 

At first, it could have been a drunk driver losing control of the wheel and veering off into the crowd on the bridge.  Then there were reports of gun shots and again by the morning the full extent of the terror had become clear.

Then, not an attack, but possibly more terrifying, came Grenfell tower.  Out of the towering inferno came stories of suffocated relatives, babies thrown from fourteenth floor windows, family members left inside, posters of the missing.  The death toll rising from 7, 8, 17, 58 and still climbing.  It is with fear and trepidation that I open my newsfeed to read the latest death toll.

It is now the morning after the attack on the Finsbury Park mosque.  A revenge attack. 

We are a nation divided and at risk.

keep calm and carry on

Most of our generation in the UK are new to this.  I am certainly new to this.  I didn’t live through the second world war and the blitz.  I am not old enough to remember what it was like to live in London at the height of the IRA campaigns.   Yes, there were the 2005 London bombings and the memories of the news footage and the stories of grief are etched in my memory.  But it was not, fortunately, a sustained campaign of successful attacks.  I can’t recall anything as harrowing as Grenfell Tower.  The Hillsborough Disaster maybe?  I don’t remember much from 1989.

I am the embodiment of the British stiff upper lip.  I live by keep calm and carry on.  I am the poster girl of logic, rationalism and emotionless objectivity. 

And yet, I walk across Westminster Bridge and I have to repeat to myself that statistically, I am more likely to die from falling down the stairs (particularly after a drink and in high heals) than I am as a victim of terrorism.    

I take Cygnet into London and I have have to reassure myself that we are much more likely to be knocked over and killed by a car whilst crossing the road outside of nursery than we are to be caught up in a terror incident.

As I hesitate to open my newsfeed to read the latest on the Grenfell disaster, I berate myself for being so spineless.  People have died, people have lost their loved ones, their friends, their soulmates and their relatives and I cannot even bring myself to read about it.  I tell myself to show some strength, to apply some objectivity and to keep calm and carry on.

keep calm and carry on

Feelings of fear are natural.  Nervousness is natural. To want to block out all that is nasty is normal. 

The British stiff upper lip has its place.  Those of us who have been through any kind of tragedy or trauma, be it bereavement, divorce, serious health concerns, know that the only option is to carry on. 

But that doesn’t mean that we have to always stay calm.  That doesn’t mean we have to bottle up all of this emotion.  It feels self indulgent, but our generation, which doesn’t know how to deal with this stuff, needs to talk about it. 

We need to talk about how it makes us feel.  We need to talk about the impact that it has on our lives.  We need to talk about the anxiety and the nervousness.  We need to talk about the impact that atrocities have on our lives and our sense of emotional well-being.

The British stiff upper lip,  keeping calm and carrying on have their place, but for the sake of our mental health and emotional well-being, they must not be our default. 

One Messy Mama
Accidental Hipster Mum
My Random Musings
Twin Mummy and Daddy
R is for Hoppit
Share the Joy linky at


  1. June 20, 2017 / 1:55 am

    I have nothing useful to say on this. I understand the terror, the fear and the anger. I just see a huge mess about to erupt. It’s awful. It’s not right. But I understand. I’m sorry for you all. Maybe for us all. #Globalbloggers. (great post.)
    Lydia C. Lee recently posted…Scent of a WomanMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 20, 2017 / 9:18 pm

      Thanks Lydia. That’s just it – this feels like a huge mess erupting. thanks for your comment. Pen x

  2. June 20, 2017 / 7:43 am

    It is definitely important to talk about it even if it is just to your loved ones but carry on we must! There has been so much tragedy in such a short space I really hope we are over it and people can start rebuilding their lives. #globalblogging

    • thesingleswan
      June 20, 2017 / 9:17 pm

      Thanks Tracey. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      June 20, 2017 / 9:16 pm

      I agree. Thanks Laura. Pen x

  3. June 21, 2017 / 10:26 am

    We definitely need to talk about these things, we have been bombarded with awful news at the moment and as I get older, it seemingly gets worse. I don’t know what it was like to live through the war or the IRA bombings but I do know what its like to be living through this. Mia is only 4 but we have talked to her vaguely about ‘bad’ things happening in the world so she knows somethings going on. It will be a while before she understands but we will encourage her to talk about her feelings when she’s able to


    • thesingleswan
      June 21, 2017 / 9:32 pm

      Thanks for your comment Becca. Cygnet is only two, and I haven’t spoken to him about bad things. i don’t really want to, but I know the time will come. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      June 21, 2017 / 9:31 pm

      You are right, it is, like many things in life, about finding the right balance. Thanks for your comment. Pen x

  4. June 23, 2017 / 12:35 pm

    I admit I am guilty of burying my head in the sand. My toddler girls live in a bubble of safety that I wish could fit us all inside. I watch only minimal news to keep informed but anything more is just too distressing.

    • thesingleswan
      June 23, 2017 / 7:03 pm

      I don’t blame you Amanda. The bubble is a nice place to be. I wish it were big enough to fit me inside too. Pen x

  5. June 23, 2017 / 8:18 pm

    It’s awful, there have been some truly horrendous events lately. The Grenfell Tower was unspeakably awful. All the terrorist attacks left me feeling scared too. I didn’t want to admit it to it, perhaps because I too am the epitome of the stiff upper lip too but you are right. There is nothing wrong with admitting fear, talking about our fears and concerns is healthy and should be done more of. I hope we have seen the last of the horrors for a long long time. Thank you for joining us at #familyfun
    Tammymum recently posted…Bringing The Outside In; Summer Kitchen Ideas For Any KitchenMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 24, 2017 / 8:55 pm

      Thank you for your comment. I hope that will be the end of this horrible string of horrific events, but I fear it won’t. Pen x

  6. June 23, 2017 / 11:34 pm

    It’s a whole new kind of scary now that we are mamas isnt it?

    Thanks for linking up to #globalblogging

    • thesingleswan
      June 24, 2017 / 8:54 pm

      Yes, it is indeed. Pen x

  7. June 24, 2017 / 11:26 am

    I feel like I could have written this, it felt very personal. I too am usually the embodiment of the stiff upper lip. I try not to let emotion cloud my judgement or choices. But Grenfell Tower I think for me was the straw that broke the camels back so to speak. A few of us at work we’re watching the news, and I had to leave the room because I could feel myself welling up. I don’t cry. Things like that are sad, but I never allow them to get to me in that way. There is just too much sadness and horror in the world right now, and while we cannot let them control us, we must talk openly about it. Brilliant post.

    • thesingleswan
      June 24, 2017 / 8:54 pm

      Thanks Aleena, I know what you mean. I cried at the the Ariana memorial concert so by the time Grenfell happened I was well and truly broken. thanks for your comment. Pen x

  8. June 24, 2017 / 7:05 pm

    I don’t even know what to say. The world seems to have changed so much since I was a kid, but in truth it’s always been like this, I’ve just been shielded from it. Thanks for linking up to #ThatFridayLinky

    • thesingleswan
      June 24, 2017 / 8:51 pm

      Thanks Emily. Pen x

  9. June 25, 2017 / 9:39 am

    We so need to talk about this it can no longer be brushed under the carpet brilliant read so well put Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please
    Nige recently posted…My Sunday Photo My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 25, 2017 / 8:32 pm

      thanks Nige. Pen x

  10. June 25, 2017 / 5:56 pm

    It is SO scary and I don’t think anyone knows how to deal with it. There should be something to help us, something to guide us and reassure us it’s okay to feel the way we do. I hate it when this sort of stuff happens. I hate to read any more than I have to. I know I’m spineless and I know I’m hiding but otherwise it keeps me up at night. It keeps turning over in my mind until I’m a wreck.

    Thanks for linking up, sorry for the late comment, Greg’s been in hospital (#RVHT will be delayed until tomorrow now for the new week)

    • thesingleswan
      June 25, 2017 / 8:32 pm

      Hi Jenny,

      Thanks for your comment. I hope that Greg is okay. You are not spineless! Pen x

  11. June 26, 2017 / 4:08 am

    This is a frightening time. I feel at a loss for words. I know it sounds like a “cop out”, but I don’t watch the news anymore. I walk away so disheartened. #globalblogging

    • thesingleswan
      June 26, 2017 / 7:59 pm

      You are not the only one. I have to make myself watch the news and do so out of a sense of duty. I feel like when people have been through such horrific events, the least I can do is listen to them. Pen x

  12. July 5, 2017 / 3:04 pm

    It is a scary time that we live in, but I think all generations can say that. It’s such a small world now with social media delivering us our news long before any of the major news outlets and I think that makes it feel more real, more personal. It’s no longer just something that happened that we hear a snippet or two about. We have video footage and witness accounts in front of us from the second these things happen. And it makes it feel too close to home – like it could happen to us.
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes 🙂
    Random Musings recently posted…Blogger Club UK Linky #73My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      July 5, 2017 / 9:16 pm

      It is close to home, but you’re right, the intense connectivity that social media gives us means that we cannot shut it away or block it out. Pen x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge