There have been a number of very tragic events in our communities over the past number of weeks, and I send my deepest sympathy to those families in our community. While our family is not directly impacted by these events, I have been surprised by how it has affected our family emotionally. Not only has it brought up memories of the loss of my father in the past couple of years, but the loss of children their age has seemed to have a deep impact on my children as well. It is hard to know what to do with these thoughts and feelings, and everyone seems to be having a bit of a tough time right now. I assume this is grief, but I am not sure and I am not sure what to do to help.
Thank you for your kind thoughts. It is a difficult time for many in the community right now, and the events of the past few weeks have indeed been very tragic.
You are correct in identifying the struggles you and many others are experiencing as grief.
Grief is the normal reaction to loss, and it can be triggered by many different types of loss. It is not uncommon for those not directly impacted by an event to also experience strong feelings and memories of their losses.
Each one of us experiences grief and loss in unique and individual way. Grief is sometimes described as a number of stages that we progress through, and this may be true for many people, but it is not always experienced in this way. Regardless, individuals often experience a host of confusing and challenging thoughts and feelings that can be difficult to cope with at times.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and it is important that we respect both our own and other’s individual processes. This can be difficult to do at times because of our own thoughts and feelings. As well, we often are uncertain how to help or support others, leading to discomfort and awkwardness in our interactions with each other.
One of the most important things to remember about helping ourselves and others during times of grief is to create some time and room for all of our thoughts and feelings. We need to remember to take care of ourselves and not to try to do too much or expect things to happen as normal.
Self-care is often the hardest during these times, and it is exactly what we need to do to work through what we are experiencing regardless of how close or distant the loss is that we are responding to.
Grieving takes time, and the process cannot be forced or hurried. How long it takes is as individual as the person experiencing the loss. Some people take weeks; other take months. There is no single correct time frame for the process.
Additionally, as you note, other events can trigger our own memories and experiences, leading to some further processing long after we thought we had finished our own processes.
We all need space, support, connection and help during these times. Practical supports such as help with daily tasks like cooking, cleaning, chores and errands, as well as emotional supports such as an understanding friend to talk to or hang out with or just to sit with can also be helpful.
The best support we can give to someone else is to make ourselves available to them for whatever type of support that they can best use in the moments. For your children, just noticing that they are struggling, being available and modifying expectations of them as necessary is often what they need.
Finally, sharing our thoughts and feelings and giving voice to our experience is also important for many people. Again, how each person does this varies with each individual, but sharing your thoughts, feelings and reactions with your family may be helpful for all of you. It allows each of you the opportunity to express your grief and to understand and support each other.
If either you or your family are feeling completely overwhelmed or stuck as your grief unfolds, it is important to reach out for help. If you feel this applies to you, please make use of your informal supports such as close family and friends or reach out to more formal supports such as your family doctor, church and/or a qualified counsellor.
If you would like to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at email@example.com. Consult a Counsellor is provided by the registered clinical counsellors at Pacific Therapy & Consulting: Nancy Bock, Diane Davies, Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Karen Turner. It appears every second Friday.