The pain and suffering that accompany the loss of a loved one is beyond description.
The shock and uncertainty, the disbelief, disorientation and sense of abandon that those grieving are left with is akin to the physical trauma that goes along with being seriously injured in a horrible automobile accident.
I would compare the grief that accompanies the death of someone that you love to the experience of getting off a fast moving merry-go-round.
If you have been spun around, quickly and repeatedly there is a very good chance that when the ride ends, you will be dizzy, lost, confused and very likely left feeling sick.
When there is one death and only a few people suffering, the person or people who are grieving have resources to turn to. Even though their world has been torn and damaged the rest of the world still has a “normal, familiar tone” that can be seen and felt.
“Ok, I’m a mess but everything else seems stable.”
The people grieving are able to see that there is still some certainty and still some things that they can count on as they struggle to cope and recover.
When a community suffers loss, the entire group looses its bearings.
There is no “normal” or dependable to be found.
There is nothing to count on as stable.
There is likely no one that those grieving can turn to, because the entire community is in shock and hurting.
Almost everyday we hear about large-scale tragedies that affect everyone in the community on some level.
Fires that kill a number of people, accidents that cause huge destruction and death, murders that touch everyone within the vicinity, are all examples of death that causes the whole community to suffer shock and feelings of acute sadness, fear and fragility.
These are times that the village must look within and care for itself. These are times where we can suffer, learn and heal as a group.
I have come to believe that there is great value in telling “the story” and expressing the emotions that the story makes you feel.
Find a friend or a neighbor and rehash the details together.
Tell the story again along with the hurt that the story holds. Express the tears, the crying, the yelling and the disbelief, as many times as is needed until the story doesn’t need to be told anymore.
Help each other cope and manage. Your common experience will be your bond.
I remember clearly the attacks on September 11, 2001.
I remember that even though I saw the footage over and over again I was so shocked by what I had seen that I needed time to sort, digest and manage the reality and my deep shock, anger and dismay.
For days, maybe weeks, virtually everyone that I interacted with needed to speak of the events and relive their impressions and their feelings.
Each time the story was retold and each time the anger, or fear or disbelief was expressed those doing the telling got to get rid of what was inside them and those who were listening got to feel like they were not alone, over reacting or being silly.
This is what the griever must do to mange. Speak of the pain, the mess, the disbelief and the sadness and this is what the community must do when there is mass grief.
You have been poisoned by the events in your midst. “Vomit” until the poison is out.
Your ability to express yourself over and over again, be heard and in turn hear others will help you move beyond the pain. Here we really can help each other.
Try not to stay stoic or quiet. There are no prizes for not expressing you feelings.
There are no rewards for your silence and tough exterior.
Only in your ability to honestly express yourself and feel the common experience of others will you find a way to move from hurt, shock and fear to something else.