Saturday 3 December 2016

Journey of loss is a very hard road to travel

Paul Gilligan explains how the process of grieving can unfold when people are impacted by immense personal tragedy

Paul Gilligan

Published 21/06/2015 | 02:30

A picture of Niccolai Schuster is placed at a memorial during a vigil on Wednesday for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse
A picture of Niccolai Schuster is placed at a memorial during a vigil on Wednesday for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse

It is difficult for us to fully comprehend the depths of sadness, despair and loss the families and friends of the students who died in Berkeley must be feeling. Still reeling from the shock of what has happened, some will understandably not be able to fully grasp the emotional impact as yet. There are few of us who do not share this sense of loss. How can we possibly make sense of such a merciless, random event? Trying to find meaning in what has happened seems impossible.

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Yet, for the victims and for their families and friends, finding meaning will be essential. The first inclination is usuallt to try and find meaning through attributing blame.

Sometimes finding a cause and a focus of blame helps those left behind, but it rarely fully resolves their loss. Over the coming months, many directly impacted will become angry, depressed or plagued by guilt; why did I let my child go to America, why was it him/her and not me? These reactions are normal and understandable. Moving beyond blame, feelings of hopelessness, despair and deep sadness will emerge. The finality of loss can envelop even the most resilient.

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