Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Responding to Tragedy: A Million Pieces of Grief

Mitzi Cowell [Source]

Explosive grief

I was enjoying Tucson's Smart Blues guitarist Mitzi Cowell, when these lyrics grabbed me:
"Sometimes I feel like I've been blown into a million pieces, and every once in a while, I find one."
There is a long list of events and situations that have such explosive power; grief can certainly be one of them. When the familiar explodes apart by a sudden tragic event, the early moments vibrate with absolute change.

Consider this apt description by Kirsti M. Dyer, M.D.,M.S. on her website Journey of Hearts:
"A sudden tragic event shatters our sense of order and thrusts us into a world forever changed. Survivors of sudden loss may experience a greater sense of vulnerability and heightened anxiety. The safe world we once knew, no longer exists. We fear for ourselves, our family and friends. Survivors can become overwhelmingly preoccupied with thoughts that such a random act of violence might happen again."  [Source]
We may see tragedy on an intimate scale--someone you know commits suicide; and again on break-the-scale proportions of terrorist acts.
Sarah Klockars-Clauser, OpenPhoto

Condolence after terrorism

I was recently asked, "I feel badly about the Brussels bombings, but who should I write to?"
I advised that, if you do not have a personal connection with someone stricken by the tragedy, you may, after a little research, send words of support to an aid organization actively responding to the affected community. The condolence response for a tragedy that shakes the world can also take on symbolic proportions:

  • Performing acts of kindness or peacemaking where you live or work.
  • Sending a donation of goods or money to a relief organization.
  • Add your voice to social media campaigns that denounce violence, promote conflict resolution, or improve lives.
However you respond, respect the power of your own voice; speak (or write) from your heart. Be true to your outrage, sadness, despair...and desire to drive change. This is the nature of a truly compassionate response:  sharing your impassioned self with others.

Hope and recovery

Miroslav Vajdic, OpenPhoto
Mitzi Cowell's lyrics include the beacon of hope, "every once in a while, I find one [a piece.]" The recovery of the familiar, piece by piece, is often a startling, bittersweet experience. The piece may have its original proportions, but recovery has embedded new lenses on the eyes of the grieving person. Nothing will ever be the same, yet the found piece "fertilizes" the soul, feeding growth, allowing a scar to toughen the once-raw wound. What can you do to nurture hope?

  • Share good memories of when things were "in one piece":  a story, a thought, an old photo, a song
  • Encourage expression: be a listener, give a condolence gift such as a journal, or art supplies for a memory box
  • Offer time honored symbols of hope: a plant or sapling, seeds for a garden, a candle, images of a butterfly or sunrise
  • Stay in touch:  a person recovering from tragedy must walk a long road--most of it alone because companions tire and drop off. You don't have to be a saint or a social worker, but be the person who stays in touch with an occasional note or email, a shared cup of coffee, a thinking-of-you item left at a front door or office desk.
Thank you for caring!

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