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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Dealing With Death

Yesterday morning I was greeted at work with the news that a coworker was killed in a car accident on Friday night. She was on her way home from work traveling on I-78 when a nineteen year-old traveling at the speed of light, crossed the median and crashed into her vehicle. Two other vehicles were also involved but none others lost their life.

Aside from seeing her name on paperwork I processed or filed, I didn’t really know her, but I did know that she had two young boys aged seven and ten and had undergone a bitter divorce. I wasn't PMS-ing (I checked the date) and I couldn't even describe the woman if someone offered me a million dollars to do so, but I was leaden with grief.
What made it worse was the fact that I couldn’t call her family—“Dee, who?”-- I couldn’t call her co-workers, “What’s your name again?” So I was left with a whole lot of displaced sympathy.

An hour later, I found my purpose or role, if you will, in the tragedy. Sure, my name wasn’t up in lights, and no one aside from my supervisor would even know I’d participated, but it served as an outlet, some way I could be of help in the situation.

What did I do? I made copies. Copies of articles written about "Grief Reactions", "How To Help When You Don’t Know What To Say", "What You Can Do For Others", "What You Can Do For Yourself", "Grief in the Workplace", "Dealing With Death: Grief in the Workplace - Part 1 - Employees" and "Dealing With Death: Grief in the Workplace - Part 2 - Management".

Just by skimming through the articles, I felt better equipped; especially the one entitled “How to Help When You Don’t Know What to Say”. An inveterate talk-a-holic, death shuts me right up. Nothing comes to mind; well some stuff does, but gets dismissed as stupid or trite nonsense. If like me, death renders you clueless, you might find the following helpful.

NOTE: Due to copyright infringement laws, I’m unable to display the articles in their entirety here, but I can hit you with the highlights. However, if you’d like a copy of any of the articles in their entirety, email me and I’ll be happy to forward.

Grief Reactions:

A popular misconception held by many is that there is a correct way to react to grief. Grief reactions may or may not run the gamut of insomnia, lack of or increased appetite, moodiness, confusion, withdrawal, busyness, fear, anger, peace, despair, guilt, agitation and more.

In the same way that there is no correct way to react to grief, there is also no set order of emotions or designated time limit. That being said, it is important to note that expressing grief is a necessity and not to be avoided. However it is also important to note that symptoms of grief can mirror that of depression, so it is recommended that the griever maintain contact with others and seek assistance from a counselor, if the symptoms last more than two months.

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