How to Grieve Through Tragedy

 I woke up this morning and expected a normal day of substitute teaching at a local high school.  Before I left the house, Bridget told me that a 17-year old boy had been killed in an auto accident the night before.

As I drove to the high school, I prepared to a the crisis situation that I would encounter.  When I reported to the office, I was informed the student was in my first period class.  The secretary knows I am a pastor and we had a brief conversation about caring for the students throughout this day.

The emotional trauma is overwhelming for some of these students.  I asked one class how their emotions were on a scale of 1 to 10.  10 is “okay.”  1 is “worst day of my life.”  Most of the students didn’t answer.  Those who did gave said “2”.

We spent portions of the rest of the class talking about grieving and allowing room to grieve.  Here are a few ways you can engage in a healthy grieving process.

First, write the person a letter about all the things you love about him/her.  Of course, the ideal is to tell the person when he/she is still living.  Sometimes, there are things left unsaid.  If you get them on paper, your grieving perspective changes.

Second, include laughter and tears in your grieving.   For some reason, we do not believe laughter is acceptable or appropriate when tragedy strikes.  If the person made you laugh when he/she was alive, give yourself permission to laugh at the memories they left with you.  This laughter will never replace that you are hurting, but laughing will help you hurt less.

Third, talk to another person.  Keeping our emotions inside and to ourselves prevents us from moving beyond tragedy.  Find a person who cares about you or a pastor or a counselor that will listen and give nuggets of advice to you.  The important piece is that you talk, rather than what the listener says.

Fourth, go back to normal life as soon as possible.  If you remain in isolation and keep an unusual schedule for longer than a week or two, it is possible you are not grieving in healthy ways and you may need help.

Fifth, remember that you will have spontaneous bad days down the road.  You will have future days that will bring you back to the tragedy.  You might become emotional as if the tragedy happened yesterday.

Last, find peace from reading Scripture.

Tragedy is never easy, nor is grieving.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve, except to grieve.  I encourage you to get the help you need as you go through the grieving process.