Guest editorial: Give the grieving time to heal and support
September 20, 2016
Being a therapist in Park City, it has been challenging for me to sit back and listen to all the pain, fear and anguish of our community and not say anything. We clearly can’t afford to be quiet any longer.
With the two deaths this past week, grief has paralyzed our community. A death, regardless of its happening, at the young age of 13, hurts us all. A community loses and nothing is to be gained. But more is to be lost if we don’t take the time to heal, understand and ask for help and guidance in their wake.
I’ve heard people say some really hurtful things. Pointing fingers, accusing, assuming. We will never understand death or the full emptiness that comes with grief. But surely placing blame isn’t helping to heal or force understanding. All families and close friends impacted by a young person's death need time to reel, to question, to make meaning out of something rendered meaningless. They deserve this time without question.
I’ll never forget responding to the Navy Yard shooting that took 12 lives in September 2013 with the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing in Washington, D.C. A senseless act of terror that took fathers, sons, daughters, mothers, sisters, best friends, away from their loved ones. While pain, heartache and anger entrenched every person's life the many restless hours and days that followed, so did a remarkable forgiveness I’ve never experienced before. In a rare healing circle of all the survivors and the victim's families, an attempt at justice was made. One by one they lifted up the names of those they lost until a brave soul spoke the unspoken that led to a healing so deep the soul would soar. “Let’s pray for his (the gunman’s) family. They lost their son today, too.”
Wow. What power in recognizing that grief is universal. Amidst pain and terror, those acting in violence are in pain, too. They suffer unbearably. They fear. They cry. They hurt. They, too, are human. What purpose does pointing fingers serve? Why accuse or assume someone could have done something then? Why not look forward with meaning and purpose to those we can reach out to, while allowing those that need time to grieve…time?
Part of grieving is being angry. But let’s not use that toward one another. If we find ourselves needing answers, let’s lean on one another not oppose each other. If fear comes up, which is natural after such a loss, we can no longer afford not to face it. Might this happen again? Absolutely. It’s no longer a matter of “if” but “when."
Clearly our youth is in pain. Yes, drugs are a part of reality in our children's lives but oftentimes it's a coping mechanism that really does help.
Our children are suffering. They are grieving, too.
Divorce hurts. It’s not simply a signed piece of paper or a hearing decided by adults. It’s the loss of family, home, comfort. To our children, it’s a shattered life.
Moving hurts. High school hurts. Friends hurt. Grades hurt. Life hurts.
We can teach our youth to heal and that hurting is a normal part of life. But they don’t need to hurt alone, or to hide it. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’ve made another person feel needed, wanted and loved. That’s what life is all about after all.
I challenge our community not to ask questions of those who have had a death in their family, but to ask what we can do to better normalize suffering so that those who need us are not alone. We can’t afford to wait.
For questions or support on grief and how to speak with children on such a challenging topic, please contact me. I’ll support our community and our children however I can.