Grief, Trauma and Healing: When Mass Tragedy Strikes
It’s hard to fathom the immensity of hurt and agony that one single act of violence can create.
There is the sheer trauma for the victims who were there: physical wounds, emotional horror, heart break and intense fear.
There is also the grief and suffering for the people who loved the victims.
The trauma circle widens even more, to the rescue workers, theater employees, medical staff and neighbors.
More distant but still affected are people in the state, country and the world.
When a rock is thrown into a still pond, the water ripples out far beyond the point of impact. In a similar fashion, a senseless tragedy that occurs in a violent and deadly way affects even people who have little or no connection to the victims.
When one person hurts, many hurt. And when there is pain, there is fear and vulnerability.
Part of what makes crimes such as the Colorado shooting, the massacre in Norway, or 9-11 so terrorizing is that they were unpredictable and created such a sense that no one anywhere was safe.
As people go through their day, they make calculated risks: driving a car, crossing a street, riding a bike, swimming in the ocean, or going scuba diving. The risks are fairly clear: car accident, being hit while crossing the street, crashing, drowning or being attacked by a shark.
But when a disaster comes out of nowhere, when there is literally nothing people can do to keep themselves out of danger, they feel vulnerable and afraid. Few could have imagined a man shooting down people who were watching a movie, or a terrorist targeting teenagers on a tranquil island, or hijacked planes crashing into buildings.
The pain that people can inflict on one another is immense. It makes us ask the underlying question of why. Why do people kill so ruthlessly? Why do some die and others live? Why is there so much pain in the act of living?
Humans are fragile; bullets easily injure and kill. Humans are also intensely strong; we comfort, support and protect each other. Humans are broken; we exert violence on one another. Humans heal; our bodies, minds, and communities mend and regain strength.
There will never be clear and complete answers as to why mass tragedies happen. What is clear is that people heal best when they are not alone, when they feel supported and loved, and when they are allowed to grieve in their own way and in their own time.
This is the the power of humanity, of the human spirit. When one of us hurts, many of us hurt. And when we come together in grief and mourning, we heal. Slowly but surely, we heal.
photo from Shutterstock
Harmon, J. (2012). Grief, Trauma and Healing: When Mass Tragedy Strikes. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 7, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/your-life/2012/07/grief-trauma-and-healing-when-mass-tragedy-strikes/