Can we, as a community, keep these people in our hearts for years. Or will we move on, expecting them to move on as well? There's no definite answer here.
The five-stage model of grief defines phases we go through after experiencing a traumatic event:
Grief is not the same for everyone, and it does not always go away. By the same token, mourning has no timetable. The closest one can find to a consensus among today's therapists, according to Epstein, is that the healthiest way to deal with trauma is to lean into it, rather than try to keep it at bay. The rush to normalcy can be counterproductive. In the attempt to fit in, to be normal, the traumatized person (and this can apply to most of us) feels estranged.
I remember my first trip to a grocery store after a surgical procedure I had years ago. Something that had always seemed so commonplace felt so foreign. I was moving slowly and taking everything in. Not that that's a bad thing, considering the way I usually rush through everyday errands such as that. I just had a greater respect for the energy that's required. I'd never had to measure or conserve my energy before, and that recovery process made me take stock of that.
While we're all accustomed to thinking of trauma as the result of a major cataclysmic event, daily life is filled with endless little traumas, as Epstein points out in his book. Things break. People hurt our feelings. Ticks carry Lyme disease. Pets die.
The first day of school and the first day in an assisted-living facility are remarkable similar. Separation and loss touch everyone.
The willingness to face traumas -- be they large, small, old or new -- is the key to healing from them. They may never disappear in the way we think they should, but maybe they don't need to. Trauma is just a part of our lives that needs to be managed.
And we're human as a result of it, not in spite of it.
Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301 or emailed to livelifefu...@arnoldagency.com.