Grief and Hope for the Recently Bereaved when Disaster Strikes

Weather events, tragic news and disasters can be traumatizing to anyone—even under the best of circumstances. Those of us at Caris Healthcare know this firsthand. Fierce wildfires of historic proportions have blazed for more than a week throughout the eastern portion of Tennessee. Evacuation orders were issued for Gatlinburg and surrounding areas and the destruction already has left thousands of people without homes or jobs. In October, portions of South Carolina were evacuated due to the flooding and widespread damage resulting from Hurricane Matthew. As difficult as tragedies like these can be for everyone, bad news and troubling events can be much more difficult for people who have experienced the loss of a loved one even if they are not casualties of the tragedy or disaster.

Large-scale tragic events often can increase the intensity of grief. Grieving the loss of a loved one can leave people in a sad and vulnerable state. When an outside event or tragedy occurs, it often can cause a person to question the fairness of life or lead to a diminished sense of hope for the future. Grief and fear are sister emotions, mimicking one another with eerie similarity. Just because a grieving person is not directly or physically affected by a devastating event does not mean that he or she is not emotionally affected. Grief heightens sensitivity. The feelings that so often accompany grief—loss, despair, sadness, loneliness—serve as a metaphor for the physical manifestation of tragedy and disaster. When words cannot express emotion, images can. Feelings of empathy for the sorrow and hurting of others may resonate much more strongly for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

It is common to see communities or groups coming together after a tragic experience or disastrous event. These displays of solidarity offer hope in trying times. For those who are in the midst of their own grief journey, these demonstrations may be symbolic of the healing and renewal they seek. It is during times of great distress and trouble that the resiliency of mankind becomes clear. By sheer will, hope and determination, what began as a moment of great despair and hopelessness transforms itself into triumph.

There are comforting lessons for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.