Collective Grief by Diane Gaston PerkinsIn this month's Ask Dr. Debra, Dr. Debra tells how to deal with the grief of a loss of a pet. She made the point that this grief was perfectly human and understandable, and that the emotions around such a loss are common for any of us who have lost a pet.
This week in Virginia, we have had to deal with a different type of loss, the loss of 33 lives, most of them so very young, on a sleepy college campus nestled in the Shenandoah Mountains. I have been lucky in that I've not known any of those precious lives lost, lucky that my son attends a different Virginia college, but this loss seems much too close to home. I've been experiencing a sort of collective grief, a grief mainly consisting of acute empathy for the victims and their families. In Virginia we've had way too much experience with this sort of collective grief. On 9/11 a plane hit the Pentagon, just a few miles from where I worked. Then the Sniper hit and more victims fell while merely going about the ordinary tasks of life. The Virginia Tech shootings seem so terribly tragic for the loss of young lives just on the verge of making their mark in the world. How much potential have we lost?
Of course, the collective grief of this week is not confied to Virginia. People all over the world are looking at the photos of the victims, reading about their last moments and weeping as I have done.
I'm sure Dr. Debra would advise that this sort of grief is normal, built of empathy and compassion. I think it is important to acknowledge the feelings, to readily say this was a lousy week, to be sad. To care. I also know that each person must take care of themselves. One can see or hear coverage of this tragedy 24 hours a day. It is best to limit the viewing, to get relief from the pain of it all and to go about daily life as you need to do. It is also okay to do something enjoyable (like read a romance novel!) to escape the collective grief.
If anyone who reads this has been personally touched by this tragedy, my tears are for you. All our tears are for you. We do care. And like the students who have been so affected by these events, we wrap our arms around each other in a collective hug and comfort ourselves--and you--as best we can.