According to the process of teaching, “All truth passes through three stages, First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed.Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”–Arthur Schopenhauer
Many of us feel a genuine sorrow each time that we hear of the deaths of children or mistreatment of pets, even when we have not known or spent time with them. Not all people do, nor do they need to feel guilt if they don’t. Not all people bond with children or pets and cultural differences in the way we accept death, also plays a role in why some people will grieve profoundly while others feel a compassion and act differently from those who grieve the lost of strangers. This was very prevalent in the attacks of 9/11, as well. Some people also remain more resilient while they prefer to spring into action first.
The NewTown tragedy, is one of many killings of our children by those who use guns but it leaves a profound lost on all of us as a Nation, because there are so many 6 and 7 year olds who have lost their lives. Even those who do not have any particular fondness for children, can remember those hopeful years of their own lives, and feel that this tragedy leaves them with a genuine sense of regret for the lives lost.
We generally accept the Kubler-Ross model of grieving even though it has its share of critics as well. The study was based on people who were terminally ill and how they coped with the lost of their health and the acceptance of death and they later applied the same emotions to all lost of that which we are bonded to. I repeat the 5 steps here;
1. Denial—”I feel fine”
2. Anger—-”Why me? It’s not fair.”
3. Bargaining–”I’ll do anything for a few more years or one more moment”.
4. Depression—”I’m so sad, why bother with anything”.
5. Acceptance–”Its going to be o.k.”
Others have added two other emotions and they are shock which most commonly accompanies denial and leaves us feeling numb and guilt. Guilt is common with care givers who feel they should have been able to do more or with survivors who are involved in the same act of violence or car accident or in death of any kind. It is also common is spouses and siblings,especially when a twin is lost through death or separation. It directly affects those who fight together in wars, sometimes for the rest of their lives.
Emotions can also be very varied without fitting a pattern of any kind. They can run from solemn to trepidation to anxiety or to rage and disgust. Many times feelings of jealousy or envy or even hate can follow when we see other children graduate with their classes or marry or we see other spouses with their mates, even after we feel that our sadness has dissipated. It is important that those who are experiencing many ranges of emotions are not alone but instead with friends and family members until the pain or shock that often triggers these erratic or difficult to deal with emotions calm down. When we are more clear of our own emotions then we can reflect on our own if we have the capacity to do so and know our own strengths and weaknesses. Any shooting of any nature often leads to temporary trauma in all of us.
In years past, the Medical Association did not talk about post traumatic stress disorder in other situations outside of war. As modern techniques expose more about the human brain, it is now more generally accepted that PTSD can and does exist on many levels of trauma and often times does accompany shock when death is totally unexpected.
The important thing with grieving is that we all know that there is not a clear-cut pattern for those who grieve. Many emotions can be involved just as the more resilient or people with a history or exposure to death will feel fewer emotions. Some may spend days crying while others who have been exposed to death can move on with few tears and gain acceptance earlier. It is when grieving goes on for months into years with a total sense of helplessness that we should be certain to get professional help without any sense or feeling like we are weak or a failure.
We all have different ways of coping throughout life and a different time-frame in which we grieve. Some find genuine laughter over memories of loved ones their healing tool. Others will memorialize their loved one while still others who are use to solving their own problems in life will remain isolated amongst family members and choose to grieve alone. Some will feel a responsibility and duty to do something first, and then grieve later when things become more quiet. Others will turn to Religion and the hope offered through its teachings while others will commit their lives to doing for others in an effort to feel good about themselves and to help lift the veil of sadness. Some delay going back to work and grieve immediately and find it only takes a few months to reach acceptance. Others lose themselves in work and delay their grieving, because they feel a need to analyze the reasons why, first. When they finally accept the fact that there are no answers to the why they move on to the acceptance of death.
The main thing is that we acknowledge that not all things are great and that we do understand a necessity to grieve with the understanding that it should not be a lifetime condition that brings debilitating sadness. Some people will feel better talking about the death while others will want to choose who they discuss it with, if they wish to discuss it at all. Many times those who grieve will blame the innocent bystander or take out their bad feelings on the closest people to them.
Grieving takes a high level of understanding sometimes. We cannot excuse poor behavior as being normal,and need to understand that we may need to learn three simple words such as:”I am sorry.” Some people become over protective or obsessive out of fear of another loss during the period of grieving. They will sometimes use poor behavior in order to deliberately drive away others who they love because they cannot bear the lost of another person in their lives. People who have a previous history of relieving bad feelings in themselves,on those closest to them, many times should ask for help during this time, while those who are close by understand this is not a time to judge, harshly.
Too many times we get stuck in one step of grieving and rather than feel the pain or get grief counseling will turn to alcohol or drugs and only compound our own grieving. Grieving needs to take place, as the longer we delay it, the more problems will arise in the family as a result of our doing so. It is not uncommon for parents to delay their own grieving while making sure their children are o.k. first. It is important that we understand that if we are not well then our children will not be either. Alcohol and drugs in moderation may help with sleep in the earlier days but should never replace or be used to deny the feelings of pain that we need to heal from, through grieving our loss.
We can grieve while also feeling genuine appreciation for having had our loved ones in our lives, and many recover as a result of the same. Some want to leave pictures up as a reminder of their loved ones, while others want to remove all reminders of them. Some will continue to celebrate birthdays while others will feel a need to mourn. People are all different in their expressions of sorrow and we need to respect the same, but also remain cognizant of those who need professional help in order to cope. It is o.k to find moments of laughter and to look back after a few months or a couple of years and to acknowledge that we were not always rational during our grieving process. Very many aren’t.
It is important that we understand that various levels of grieving in a marriage often leads to disputes that can lead to divorce if one of the members in the marriage are ready to move on and remember the good moments shared by the deceased while the other mate is still asking,”Why Me?” Grieving too many times will lead to intolerance in couples while it will bring others closer together since no one else can entirely understand their shared lost as clearly as they can.
We can often times treat those closest to us, during the grieving time pretty poorly, if we do not move ahead with the grieving process. Children as young as 18 months can feel the loss of the bond of a sibling or parent and grieve. Children who lose their best friends can withdraw and be afraid of initiating new friends because to do so feels like betrayal to them. They can not always voice their feelings, or understand them, themselves. Children grieve differently from adults in that they often times do not cry but instead will act out.
Children may have episodes of unexplained rage or with draw into themselves. When adults grieve it is especially important that when a child loses a sibling or a friend at an early age, that we understand that the children are losing the person in their lives that has always been part of their lives that they have confided in and made plans with for a future as well. The most neglected lost of loved ones often does lie in the lack of understanding for the death of a friend or sibling, when they lose their friend or sibling too early.
The lost of a sibling is difficult for adults to deal with, but too few amongst us, understands the difficulty as the sympathy and understanding goes more often to the parents,spouses, or their children. Siblings are often called on to be strong and to act as spokes people instead. The loss of a twin can compare to the lost of a spouse as many ideas,hopes,jokes,love,hate,upsets,plans for the future, and people in their lives are shared from birth and through out their lives. The identity or feeling of losing half of ourselves, when we lose a twin, is most like that of losing a spouse. No relationship is more involved or longer lasting than that of a twin relationship when their relationship begins in the womb they share.
What we as parents need to do is to make certain that our sadness does not spread over to our children or lose patience with our children if they are not shedding tears but are acting out. It helps instead to discuss with them what they are feeling to make them behave the way they are. Children should not hear everything about the shootings but sadly many will hear it from other sources and we need to be aware of the fact that details often become exaggerated and lead to nightmares in our children. When questioning them we need to be careful not to offer details but instead to find out what they know or are feeling and answer them honestly.
Just as some adults will cry for days while others don’t, the same is true with children. Children,depending on age, do not clearly understand the permanence of death. They just know that their parent,friend, or sibling is not with them now and do not understand the long-term of death but feel a real unexplained sadness in themselves. Some will need our understanding on their level to cope without us forcing our own coping measures or the lack of the same on them. Grieving needs to be age appropriate just like everything else in life does.
The tragedy effecting our Nation in NewTown,Connecticut can affect our children around the globe and it is especially important that we communicate with our children about their concerns without expressing our own concerns. It is alright to say Mommy and Daddy are feeling sad because they know that already but they should not be made to feel as a replacement for the children lost, or be compared to them.
We are each uniquely our own person and that applies to grieving as well. We will not always be on the same page together nor do we have a time clock running. If we need grief counseling we most definitely need to seek it out before we are left to deal with an unnecessary guilt or a prolonged sense of hopelessness. It is important that we also rest during this time, when we can. Grieving is exhausting and requires that we do get sleep.
Good luck and my condolences are with all of you. I, like the rest of the Nations around the World, are wishing you the strength to recover on your own time and in your own space knowing our prayers and thoughts are with all of you. May the goodness of the Season offer all of us the hope that we as a Nation will do something about such needless tragedies, in the New Year. God Bless all of us! (See my previous post,”Guns And Mental Illness”)