I feel so ill qualified to speak.
I’m not there but I know people who are. It could have been our sons, our daughters in that concert, that football stadium, those bars. They were someone’s sons and daughters, someone’s, mums, dads, friends. And so were the killers.
How much hate has there got to be inside someone to do what was done?
We are not born hating. We learn it. A sorry world it is when we teach such powerful hate.
So all I can offer is the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross from her book; ‘On Death and Dying’. She worked with grief and there is grief tonight as I type.
She said there are 5 stages to grief. Those of us who have grieved will recognise them, not as a nice neat sequence, but as feelings we circle through as time passes.
Denial and isolation – is when we can’t quite believe what has happened. One part of our brain knows the person we loved is dead, the other part of us can’t take in the enormity of the loss. I remember waiting for the phone to ring to tell me it was all just a joke. It wasn’t. We feel so alone without the person we loved. We can’t talk to people because no one can really understand the pain we are feeling. No one understands our loss. It is too immense to put into words.
Anger – the anger that he/she had died. The rage in Paris that so many were murdered. The anger that it was our loved one and not some anonymous other. The anger at all that has been taken from us, not just now, but the future too. This the phase when we want to lash out, to hurt back, to revenge what has happened. We may even feel angry with our loved ones for leaving us, for going out, for being at the match. Anger at the perpetrators, at the governments, at the people who could have, should have done more to stop it, or not start it and didn’t.
Bargaining – if I donate to charity/pray/ go out and help with the clear up/ am good forever more/give up drinking/smoking/everything, then please, please, please can I have him back. Her back.
Depression – the awful realisation of the reality of the loss. I remember waking up every day, for a split second feeling the same as I had every other day and then remembering what had happened and feeling a black cloud descend. There was no point to anything. No future. No happiness. No meaning. No hope. Just a huge void where my loved one had been and would never be again. I hated myself for not being able to save him, the world for not being able to save him and I hated the future without him. I couldn’t talk to anyone about how I felt as I was so weighed down with the black weight I carried with me that I didn’t want to pollute anyone else with it. I remember using that word; ‘pollute’ it was what I felt like I did to the atmosphere.
Acceptance – I didn’t want to get to this stage as it felt like a betrayal. While I suffered it showed how much he had meant to me. There would be moments at first, when I would forget what had happened and found myself having fun, laughing even. And then I would remember again and feel such guilt at laughing after such a loss. Then the normal, happy moments got longer and more frequent and the painful moments became fewer. Until now, there are just moments, triggered by who knows what, that the pain surfaces again.
- Do you recognise these stages?
- How did you experience each of them?
Knowing a theory doesn’t take a way the pain, but it does help us understand that our feelings are normal and that we’re not going mad.
- Do you know anyone who might be helped by knowing about these 5 stages/
- How can you let them know?
The pain, in experience never completely blunts, its just that life builds up around it and so we experience it less often.
So my thoughts go out to the grieving families and friends. This is when we need to connect and mourn. When we need our rituals and our crying and to be with people who can bear our pain with us.
Let’s support those we can support and pay attention to the many courageous and self-less acts by service men and women, police and people like you and me who did what they could to help in extreme circumstances.
The killers had families too; how will they grieve?
What happened in Paris last night was born of hate and adding hate to hate, can not be the answer.