by Tami Frye
Those of us in grief counseling find ourselves spending considerable parts of our days with people who are grieving significant losses in their lives in one way or another. Many, if not most, of our clients entered treatment, in large part, due to the fact that they felt so isolated in their grief.
For centuries, ours has been a culture that has not condoned discussion of death, loss or grief. Not so many years ago the dead were brought into the home of the family for a period of time immediately prior to the funeral. In another era, widows were not accepted and were expected to wear only black for the year following the death of their spouses. Not so terribly long ago, the public acknowledgement got even smaller in the form of a black ribbon adorning one’s clothing.
Today, most of the general population is more comfortable if we do not discuss grief or loss at all. This occurs simultaneous with a time in history where people are losing jobs they have held for twenty, thirty, forty years or more, homes are being foreclosed on, the divorce rate remains elevated, the marriage rate declines, and newscasts are full of incidents of mass casualties in our country.
As recently as December 2012, we began to see the most recent run of mass casualties starting with the Sandy Hook school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut that took the lives of many with most of them being very young children. Then, within weeks of one another, there occurred the bombings in Boston and the explosion in West, Texas – killing and injuring many more as well as wiping out an entire community. Most recently, tornadoes twice ripped through almost the exact same area in Oklahoma, killing many and virtually erasing communities from the map. With these numerous events, dotted with various high school and college shootings across the country, there have been more deaths and wounded victims in this country since the Twin Towers went down in 2001.
Even if one does not regularly watch, listen to or read the news it is all but impossible to avoid the details of such events. It is even more difficult to avoid the stories of those affected by the events in one way or another. Teachers who lost their lives or were brutally battered by the storm while protecting their students. Families who lost their new homes, but were thrilled their entire families survived thanks to a bath tub and helmets. Family pets thought to be long gone whose barks are heard in the midst of a television interview.
These events wreak extreme havoc on our human emotions. We imagine how horrible it would be to experience such events ourselves. We are touched and inspired by the invincibility of the human spirit. We ache for those who have lost so much—limbs, lives, jobs, homes. Can anything truly positive come from so many horrific events that seem to be happening in rapid succession?
Flash back to over twenty years ago. I gave birth to my first son at 28 weeks. He lived for seven days. As horrible as that was, I believed that statistically it HAD to be a once in a lifetime horror. Two years later I again conceived, this time with triplets. I gave birth to them at 20 weeks and they only lived for a few hours each. Two years later, I again conceived and gave birth to a baby girl at 30 weeks. She’s now 22 and graduates in two weeks as an EMT. Ever the stubborn one, two years later I conceived one last time, carried her to term and she just began college this year.
Fast forward to the present. One of the most valuable things I learned as a result of that dark period of my life is this: nothing is ever a complete waste if we can learn something as a result of it. This in no way makes it “worth it”, but if something good or valuable can result from it having occurred then it at least gives some usefulness to the event or the resulting suffering.
So, while so many sad, horrible events have occurred recently, at least some good is resulting. That good thing is that more people are talking about grief and loss than ever before.
Consider all the members of the military who died in each of our wars and military conflicts over the years. While those losses were tragic to the family and friends, they were still losses that were considered expected for those occurrences.
The losses in our country over the past few months not only had the impact of unexpected losses that likely complicated their effects, but they also were so far-reaching. They have also resulted in more disenfranchised grief . Naturally, the ones most closely and directly affected by these events are the ones that actually experienced the losses—whether death, job, property or marital losses.
The next level would be those in the neighborhood or community outside the realm of those who suffered the losses including first responders, emergency personnel, EMTs, etc. The disenfranchised losses being experienced are the community as a whole—you and me. The negative side of these losses is that it keeps a regular influx of clients in need of our services. The positive side is the fact that more people are talking about death, grief and loss than ever before. This also presents us, as fellow members of the human race, new and unique opportunities to encourage the conversation and keep the community discussion moving toward mutual healing.
About the Author: Tami is originally from Northern Ohio, but has lived in Georgia for over 25 years. She is the mother of two adult daughters and four babies who died shortly after birth. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Education as well as a Masters of Social Work. In 2012, Tami graduated with a PhD in Human Services specializing in counseling. She has been teaching online undergraduate classes in Human Services with the University of Phoenix for nearly four years teaching and also graduate courses in Human Services with Liberty University. In her spare time, Tami is working towards a practice in Grief Counseling. To her credit, she is a certified Grief Counselor as well as a Licensed Master Social Worker in the State of Georgia. She is a member of the American Counseling Association and American Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) where she is editor for their e-newsletter, ADEC Connects.