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How Young Adults Face Grief After School Shootings- Danita Ogandaga, GriefTalk

Just as Marysville- Pilchuck High School was preparing to begin the implementation of the share of their recently awarded $10 million grant  to address emotional behavior among high school students, on Friday, October 24, a popular freshman entered the school opening fire on the students and before killing himself, injured 4 and killed 1. Today, it was reported that one of the injured, 14-year old Gia Soriano died of gunshot wounds.

While the police are working through the investigation and policymakers are working to understand the policies associated with gun control and school administration, it must be understood that there are students, teacher, families, and friends who were left devastated by the tragedy that struck their school on Friday.

Senseless tragedies often delay grief and give way to grief. Parents and friends can not begin to process the perspective that the person that they love are gone. Rather, the focus shifts to the why in hopes of trying to understand and process the why. Knees shaking and trembling voices leave no comfort to this community who in many ways are doorsteps from the tragedies that struck this state months ago during the Oso landslide that killed 43 people in early March.

What can you make of sending your child to school with the thought that their lives may be in danger not from outside of the school walls but within and at the hands of their elected and most popular student or a son or daughter of an employee who was acting out a temper tantrum that turned deadly. It makes no sense. Grant dollars are helpful to prevent, but the seed of senseless crimes are sown privately into children on a daily basis creating rage and uncontrollable anger.

Making sense of the senselessness makes my head hurt because with all of the methods of human behavior, it is often hard to predict what causes someone to snap and take other lives with them. The holiday season have begun, and like the parents  who lost twenty children  and 6 adults on December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, facing the devastating and painful milestone of holiday grief with Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, the wounds reopen.

Community trauma affects individuals differently and must be monitored to ensure that the well-being of everyone is respected. Giving people a pill and the 5 stages of grief  no longer suffices the pain because denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance do not function in a straight line.

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Grief is violent, exhausting, liberating, and above all necessary. Attempting to grieve the loss often gets cluttered with ensuring that justice is served for the life that was taken. Once can completely overthrow the other and can often result in unresolved grief.

Children may not understand that death is not reversible. You can not promise to got to bed and have your friends, family, or parent re-appear in the morning. Young adults may grapple with the factor of “Why them and not me?”

My prayers are that in the days ahead, the community will be comforted including the family of the young man who took and wounded so many lives on last Friday. That they will find peace and the courage to grieve in the days ahead.

Couple of things: GriefTalk offers specialized individual and group coaching. Complete this form for a free consultation with me .

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Symptomatology of Grief & Loss

Image Kubler-Ross five stages of grief are often sporadic reactions to a person receiving tragic news or experiencing a traumatic event. The defense mechanisms create opportunities for a person to cope through the stages of grief such as bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

 Bargaining is a postponement of the inevitable situation that the person is facing. The stage is brief yet potent as it attempts to create a system of rewards for behavior in exchange for longer life or time to settle differences or spend time with loved ones. Through the process of this stage, a person seeks to enter into a trance state of mind, absent from the pain of their illness or the shopping cart filled with prescription medications that they must take on a daily basis.

 Depression is the process of acceptance in the realization that the bargaining will no longer suffice and a person’s reality must prevail (Kubler-Ross, 1997). In this mindset, anger is turned inward and the person makes a decision to remove themselves from the participatory factor of their life.

 Acceptance is a state of looking to what is ahead in expectation that it is better than the trials or issues they are currently facing. It is a peace that surpassed all of the understanding that they hold and in some cases an inner knowing that all will be well.

 My mother, Talmer Joyce Solomon experienced these stages of a regular basis as she courageously faced her battle with advanced stage cancer. The news came at a time inconvenient for our family of course, having just loss a cousin to murder and a grandfather to illness. Having just lost my father to a massive heart attack 1 month before, my mother confidently planned my 21st birthday party at my aunt’s house. Not really in a mood to celebrate, our family collectively mustard courage to do so. At this stage, my mother was quite frail and had begun to weaken yet she still attended and actively participated in my birthday festivities.

 From the planning of my sister-in-law’s bridal shower, preaching at her church, to attending my birthday party, my mother did not have to cut deals with God because she was a woman of faith and I believe, bargain, or no bargain, she was blessed with “stronger” days than “weaker” days so that she could enjoy her children and assist us in our grief from my dad’s death. I believe that her seeing us laughing and carrying on gave her a peace in knowing that we could continue to function with time and have parties to celebrate our birthdays with the absence of her and our father.

 The bargaining and depression stage for my mother was short-lived because while at my party, her breathing began to slow and she grew tired quicker so she needed to lie down and rest. I remember leaving my party and going home with my mom and laying down next to her on the bed listening to her breath with great effort. It was apparent that her lungs were filling with fluids but she did not complain. I remember just laying next to her as she slept asking God to heal her.

 The acceptance for my mom came in the form of asking God for “divine healing”. Although I was at an age to understand what this meant and not being able to speak for my siblings, I believe that my mother had accepted that the doctors could do all that they could having accepted that long life with no hurt, for her, meant relocation to a space that was out of this world. So far away and unable to call collect, I eventually accepted her desire and supported her decision to make preparations to join my father, her husband in heaven. Her acceptance was letting us go and as was ours to let her go. With much courage as acceptance requires, we let go (Kubler- Ross, 1997).

 Danita Akendengue-Ogandaga

 References

Kubler-Ross, E. (1997). On death and dying. New York: Scribner.