This week we will commemorate the one-year anniversary of the murder of 27 innocent people and the suicide of one mentally ill young adult in Newtown, CT. Since the
tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December 14, another 15,000 people have been murdered in the US. Every one of those deaths – including Adam Lanza’s – represents a family that is now facing the holiday season with a heart burdened by the senseless absence of a loved one. They bear a particular sorrow of knowing the death was as the result of a criminal and violent act.
Holidays and families go hand in hand. So while everyone else is full of holiday joy, their sadness is felt more deeply. They feel more alone, more hollow.
This means their need for support from friends is even greater. When we’re able to give them that support, we strengthen our bond with them.
As a friend or co-worker, there are many things we can do to be supportive during this holiday season to anyone who is grieving.
It may not seem like much to us, but to one who is grieving and in pain, our simple presence or an understanding look, a hug or a light touch on the arm, says that we acknowledge and accept their feelings. We can be content knowing that by letting those who are grieving share the loss in their heart, we are helping to heal their heart.
If we want to go beyond that to write a heart-felt note, engage in supportive conversation, or be an effective listener, it helps if we understand the person might express any or all of these:
- Disbelief or even doubt over what happened or how it happened.
- Intense rage towards the perpetrator for the crime.
- Anger or blame for law enforcement, prosecutors, news media, and even first responders and healthcare providers for perceived failings.
- Fear for personal safety, including an abnormal fear of strangers or being excessively protective of others, including friends.
- Guilt for failing to do the impossible task of preventing the death.
- Distrust of others.
- Loss of faith and disrespect for spiritual leaders, God, organized religion and religious celebrations.
As a kind and empathetic friend, you know that recognizing their feelings as normal for their circumstances is not the same as understanding how they feel. By taking care in how you express yourself and being open to listening to their words, you will give them the greatest gift anyone can give them this holiday season. You will give them the gift of healing.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: You don’t have to feel helpless when others you care about are grieving and in pain. When you show your empathy and concern, you acknowledge their loss and accept their grief and in so doing, you ease their pain and assist in their healing.
Have you lost a family member, co-worker, neighbor or friend through a violent and senseless act? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!