*How Will You Grieve?*
By: Gottin_Himmel
03 December 2013

A horrible accident claimed the life of an old friend recently. Her little girl was badly hurt and will need time for a lengthy recovery.

Once the initial shock wore off a bit, I wrote a newspaper column about the surrounding circumstances. It helped me and I hope it helps other folks who were involved in other ways.

I began thinking about how we might deal with sudden, violent and unexpected death if all our normal public services were gone or in short supply.

Even trained "masters of disaster" might be hard-pressed and traumatized by these events. The emergency responders who went to the scene of my friend's crash are having a difficult time dealing with what they found. I try not to allow my mind to overwork itself, so I practice self-distraction. I hope they learn to do the same.

Emergency responders and military folks who have seen violent death may be able to continue functioning. Nevertheless, they are changed by the experience.

I keep thinking about how such deaths might become more common after a wide-scale national emergency.

At present, if you are involved in a vehicular accident or are burned in a structure fire, you have a good chance of surviving if you aren't too badly mangled and the crews get there in time.

What happens if the grid goes down and people turn to methods of heating and lighting they are not that familiar with? Our forefathers had more experience using open flames in the form of wood- or coal-burning stoves and kerosene lanterns. But even they had house fires and loss of loved ones.

What happens if someone is trying to wire a genset into his household circuitry and electrocutes himself? What if somebody who doesn't know anything about horses tries to ride one?

Public services we rely on, such as firefighters and EMTs, may be overwhelmed or their ranks thinned through the "new normal" way of life.

There are scores of articles on the Rubicon site dealing with extracting someone from a vehicle, treating physical injuries and healing the sick. There aren't a lot dealing with grieving and the aftereffects of psychological and emotional trauma.

Psychologists have categorized the process of grieving into four neat phases or categories. I'm not going to repeat them here. You've probably already seen them.

I'm not so sure the grieving process is so neat and tidy. It's a messy business, this thing of being human. Grieving takes as long as it takes months, years or forever. If you find yourself telling someone to just "snap out of it," you are a heartless fool.

I have a well-thumbed copy of the Special Operations Medic's Handbook. Along with the straightforward information on diagnosing and treating various microbial diseases, treating sucking chest wounds, and maintaining a latrine, there's some excellent food for thought regarding emotional trauma.

It makes sense.

Get people talking as soon as they are able. Nurture them in some way until they are calmer. There are few things more comforting than a good mug of tea and a hot meal. The Brits know all about the restorative virtues of tea. It's something we Yanks might adopt.

Once folks are somewhat settled down, set them to doing some form of light physical work not requiring much mental energy. That's good advice, according to the latest research on post-traumatic stress disorder. The high levels of stress hormones released during a traumatic event alter the way our brains process and store memories. Keeping the body in motion and the brain mildly engaged appear to mitigate this process.

Allow the traumatized to talk about what happened, but you'll have to use your own judgment on this one. There's a point where enough is enough. Overdoing the mental rehashing is not healthy in the long run. Be prepared to distract them if you notice their becoming agitated and heading toward obsessing about the event.

I'm not a mental health professional, nor do I play one on TV. I'm just a good ol' gal who notices things and writes them down. It helps.

You might consider getting folks to keep journals. If they aren't inclined to maintain one for a long period of time, even scratching down some short essays on yellow legal pads might do the trick.

Think about that for a moment. The mind is revving out of control, so you get the person to release some of that stress through the simple physical act of writing with a pen and paper. Sounds like the same thing the SpecOps manual suggests, doesn't it?

People sometimes see things that nobody should ever have to see. Our modern life has given us the luxury of sanitizing death and loss, the comfort of pushing bad images to the side because they happen to other people on the evening news.

Once the modern niceties are gone, things will change. We're all going to see things that will rock us to our souls. How are you going to grieve?

Gottin_Himmel


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