Coping with Grief and Loss
On Friday, December 14, the entire world was shaken by the tragic events that took place in Newtown, CT. The images, ages of the victims and the way all of us can personally relate to the horrific events touches us deeply and undermines our personal sense of security. The proximity to the holidays and having to explain to the children what occurred makes this all the more difficult. Perhaps the most daunting part of this whole thing is trying to understand why someone would engage in such an unthinkable act.
People experience many different emotions in response to tragedy; empathy, fear, pain and sorrow, to name a few. Personal response depends on a number of factors including our personality, life experience, coping styles, the nature of loss, our support system and our faith. The grief process does not have a time table. It is gradual and cannot be expedited. Therefore, it is important to let the process unfold and allow emotions to immerge and be processed. Eventually, healing will take place.
Dealing with children presents additional challenges. As a father and physician, I can suggest several behaviors intended to help children cope with this situation. During times of grief and challenge, children and adults need people who care about them close. Speaking to children and answering their questions in age appropriate ways is highly recommended. The idea of shielding children from emotion is a fallacy. It’s OK to cry; crying is not a sign of weakness. All faith traditions have rituals for grieving. Praying and meditating is common to most. There is a strong value in connecting with your own tradition and using the practices for gaining strength. If children continue to show signs of depression or confusion over an extended period, professional help should be sought. Joining a support group or brief counseling may be a good idea, as well. It is important to be mindful that body, mind and spirit are interconnected. At these times, try and get enough sleep, eat right, and exercise. It is best to avoid alcohol or drugs to reduce that alter or artificially enhance mood. Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open.
For those of you who are not familiar with the traditional stages of grieving, they are:
Grief is believed to have 5 stages, these include
- Denial: “This cannot be happening to us”
- Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to be blamed?”
- Bargaining: “Please make this not happen, and I will do whatever I can in return.”
- Depression: “I am just too sad to do anything.”
- Acceptance: “I am at peace with what has happened.”
If anything of value can be found in this incomprehensible act of violence, it is that our shared pain will give us a reason to remember a sense of love, respect and care for each other, as a community. As the holidays approach, let us take the time to express our love to all our families and friends and value the gift of life.
Dr. Saud Anwar
South Windsor Town Council