Grief is a journey that we will travel eventually in our lifetimes. The loss of a family member or friend, changes in our own physical health or to those of our loved ones as well as the ambiguous losses of changes in employment, finances, family composition can affect us with a grief response. There is no easy escape from grief, just the passing of time with support of friends, family, therapists, and spiritual guidance.
Grief overload or cumulative grief can happen to us when we have a series of losses from which we never seem to be able to catch our breath. Surviving a loss takes time and patience but what if grief also encompasses the losses we hear and see on a national level?
The latest mass shooting in Orlando brought this home to me. Our national tragedies are happening in places we frequent. The nightclub, shopping mall, movie theatre, school campuses, and places of worship are familiar to us. The faces and personal backgrounds we read about could belong to our own family members, friends, teachers and colleagues. The grief and emotions we see played out on a national level can reopen our own wounds or add to our own unresolved losses, whatever they are.
Our modern technology allows us to watch a never-ending loop of news, images and stories 24 hours a day. Facebook, Twitter, online news feeds or social media platforms can fuel a sense of unease and loss beyond what is physically manageable. Manage the grief overload response with:
- Self Care-Adequate sleep, exercise, limit alcohol and caffeine consumption. Spend time with family and friends.
- Support-Identify if there is unresolved grief that is triggered by a national event. Therapy, support groups can help.
- Step Away-Limit exposure to the news.
- Separate-Identify what is possible to change and what isn’t.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
– Reinhold Niebuhr