Time Heals Nothing. Its What You Do With that Time, That Means Everything.
How to cope in the face of mounting global atrocities like the Las Vegas Shootings and Charlottesville.
“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through.
It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly — that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” — Anne Lamott
A sudden, accidental, unexpected or traumatic tragedy, like the mass shooting in Las Vegas now billed as, “the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, can “shatter” our world as we know it. It is often a loss that does not make sense. We realize that life is not always fair and that sometimes bad things happen to good people. These tragedies leave us feeling shaken, unsure and vulnerable.
A Traumatic death is one that is sudden, unanticipated, violent, mutilating or destructive, random or preventable, involves multiple deaths or one in which the mourner has a personal encounter with death.
I’ve personally experienced this type of death when my husband passed away suddenly (in the space of 3 hours) from a rare illness that no doctor could seemingly put a finger on (for an entire year afterwards). There is no time to say goodbye or even utter last words of comfort and reassurance.
This type of grief is gut-wrenching. Unlike an anticipated death there is no time to plan, and come to terms with the inevitable. Families and friends are suddenly forced to face the loss of a loved one instantaneously and without warning.
This type of loss can generate intense, complicated grief responses such as numbness and shock, anger, guilt, sudden depression, despair and hopelessness. Along with the tragic loss of a loved one, families and loved ones may experience concurrent crises and multiple secondary losses: lost income, loss of assets, loss of social status, in the case of widows and widowers.
The very fabric of the familial landscape is eroded. Families may be left in a state of disarray with a lingering sense of unease and vulnerability. Marital and other family relationships can also become strained as family-members come to terms with the tragedy.
When I later developed policies for clinical social workers working with families in the social welfare system, I learned that these tragedies have the potential to cause fallout that can last decades.
Amy Morin, Psychotherapist and author of the internationally acclaimed, bestselling book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, offers the following advice for those trying to come to terms with their grief in these types of tragedies:
Time doesn’t heal anything.
It’s what you do with that time that determines the speed at which you heal. So it’s important to focus on self-care and to allow yourself plenty of time to grieve.
It’s tempting to try and rush through the grief process. But grief is the key to your healing.
Allow yourself to feel a wide range of emotions, like sadness, anger, and anxiety. Feeling uncomfortable emotions now can help you experience deeper positive emotions, like happiness and excitement, down the road.
When returning to work, it’s important to plan ahead.
Think about what would make it easier for you and be up front with your boss about the workplace can best support your efforts. Keep in mind that people may say or do things that are well-intentioned, but may not necessarily be helpful. Be forgiving when people seem a bit insensitive.
Entering the dating world after losing a spouse can be a bit complicated. It may stir up a lot of emotions for you so it’s important to take things slow. It can also be confusing for children. So it’s important not to introduce your child to anyone your dating unless you’re making long-term plans with someone. This can help your children avoid more losses in their lives in the event your relationships don’t work out.