Anyone who has not been hiding in a cave lately has watched the Malaysian plane crash families suffering after learning that their loved ones perished. And found out about the firemen who died in Boston trying to save lives. And who knows how many people are buried alive in landslides out west. As much as we hear about and visualize horrible scenes, before long we go about our daily lives while the surviving spouses, significant others and the families of those innocently killed must try and continue on in this world without their loved ones. The newspapers and media don’t spend any real time following up with these families and so one might wonder how they are doing over time. We see short and long term reactions here in our day-to-day business, when we take care of families who have lost someone because of another’s reckless, intentional or careless acts. Just recently I lost a very close friend who was killed on his bike because of another’s careless driving. I saw on the spot the direct impact and horribleness of it all. Because he was a very dear friend, I too have grief and am suffering.
So, what is the proper way to grief? What is the right way? Said differently, is there a wrong way? It is now accepted socially that the grief experience is different for each person. There is no right or wrong. There are numerous physical reactions such as the lack of desire to eat or perhaps one wants to over-eat. One may not sleep or get headaches or stomach problems. The chest may get heavy. One may hallucinate or panic or become more nervous or lose complete energy. Sadness and depression can set in. Forgetfulness and mood swings are yet other reactions that are “normal.” There can be anger, guilt, inability to concentrate or make decisions, feelings of emptiness or being cheated, fear of what will happen next, and questions as to why did the event happen.
For the first 24-48 hours it is important to be good to yourself. It is OK to tell and re-tell what happened and keep a journal. Spend time with others and walk 20-30 minutes a day if possible. Rest and sleep are crucial. Don’t make any big life changes. One might want to start drinking or take too many drugs so be careful there. It is all right to cry. Ask for help, that is fine. Grieving takes time and patience is important.
Our hearts go out to those who are trying to contend with major losses in their lives. Surviving the absence of a loved one is extremely difficult and in some sense one is never the same even though life goes on. If you need counseling, then get it. There is nothing wrong with getting help and expressing oneself.