After experiencing a difficult death, one that was unexpected, one that came early in life, or one that came from a horrific circumstance; survivors are left reverberating from the aftershock for a long period of time. It’s expected. Like a tuning fork vibrating, the body, and the brain are bouncing back and forth at an incalculable rate. Or better, like an earthquake, you don’t know when the aftershocks will happen.
A second death, be it lesser in scale, if there is such a thing, or even the threat of death, can cause the survivor to resurface their feelings of loss. Possibly someone has a heart attack or another has the threat of cancer. Maybe a child had a close call.
Death is closer to those of us who have lost. Ever mindful of the fragility of life, but survivors, true survivors don’t live scared. But they do know this world is temporary. Close calls reawaken this knowledge. All of us live in partial denial. We must, otherwise we wouldn’t get on a plane, turn on a car, or even cross a street. Life is a calculated risk that’s incalculable. It is a paradox. Sure, we do our faulty risk management but in the end, we rely on heuristics. Heuristics is simply a rule of thumb that we use to make quick decisions. Smart people make dumb decisions because we economize our brains for something more important, like food, fun, or sex.
If you are still dealing with a previous assault, taking care of your grief is important when that second threat materializes
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ
(I Cor 15: 8:55-57)
Taking care of your grief means:
- Recognize your feelings right away. Before the second assault you may have already felt depressed, or anxious. Certainly, you were still grieving. Physics tells us that it is easier to keep a body in motion than starting a body in motion due to inertia. Think of your grieving body as that body in motion. It is easier to become more bereaved due to the second assault. Be forewarned.
- Set Boundaries. Yes, you could be effective in helping others but you are still dealing with your stuff. You are not ready, not yet. I am a big supporter of grief survivors helping the bereaved but not until they are able to move beyond their own feelings to help another. Despite where you are, if you cannot set boundaries, you cannot help. The only thing you can do is enable and create dependence. Setting boundaries means that you give yourself the permission to say no. “No, I can’t come over.” “No, I can’t stay.” “No, I can’t be there every day.” If you can’t say no, don’t say yes.
- Patience Grasshopper. If you find yourself rushing in, you are doing something wrong. Take your time. If people have to bring in another chair to an already crowded hospital room or if you insist on calling someone to share your wisdom when they really just need rest, you are not where you need to be. Let others know you are available but don’t push yourself on the situation.
- Have someone else to whom you can vent. Working out your grief in another situation will not help yourself or the other situation. Having someone close to process your feelings will help you gain some healthy distance between you and that second situation.
You hurt, you see someone else who is hurting. You want to help. That’s healthy. It would be worrisome if you didn’t care. Intentionally acting on how to help is helping. Know that you are helping another first does help yourself. But you must know when you are ready and know you have permission to say no when you are not.
Afraid! Of whom am I afraid?
Not death – for who is He?
The Porter of my Father’s Lodge
As much abasheth me! – Emily Dickenson