Recently, shock waves spread across Taiwan as details emerged about the death of a young child riding her bicycle in the Taipei suburb of Neihu. The child’s grieving mother bravely stood before the media asking for society to remember the importance of love, and to begin to address the many issues that exist within today’s society.
Community grief touches everyone. Witnessing or being close to violence and death can be traumatic experiences that may cause negative mental health issues, particularly in children.
It is not uncommon for community members to experience reactions to grief and respond with anger after an incident of community violence and loss. Most people will normally experience loss on a number of levels. Their loss can be the physical loss of a friend, the loss of feeling safe within one’s environment, or the loss of faith in those pledged to protect them.
Common grief reactions
Everyone grieves differently, but here are some common physical or psychological reactions to grief:
*a tightness in the chest area, numbness
*shortness of breath, dry mouth
*loss of appetite
*Inability to concentrate and feelings of restlessness
*feelings of loneliness and isolation; no desire to participate in normal work, school or daily activities; withdrawal
*feelings of anger, guilt, fear and shame
How long do these grief reactions last?
These reactions will last for as long as it takes you to accept and learn to live with the changes that have taken place within your community due to the violence and its aftermath. For some, it may last months, for others it may take up to one year.
What are the stages of grief?
There are five stages of emotional grief experienced by people. These stages are:
*denial – not wanting to accept the reality of a painful situation,
*anger – becoming angry about the situation and asking oneself such questions as, “Why me?”, “This is not fair.”, “Who would do such a thing?”,
*bargaining – making promises to a higher power, trying to negotiate the situation towards a better ending within one’s mind,
*depression – overwhelming emotional sadness, leading to isolation from friends and even family, feeling the need to be silent,
*acceptance – finally being able to acknowledge the truth of a situation.
How long people grieve will also depend on the resiliency of the community, the availability of counseling and support, and the roles that community members take upon themselves to support those in need.
What can Individuals do to cope with their grief?
When children are coping with grief, it is important to encourage them to talk about their feelings, or if they are unable to speak about them, to try to find ways, such as play therapy, to express their sadness and fears. Have children try to follow their normal routines, which will help to anchor them. Provide opportunities for them to play and have fun; limit their exposure to computer and television (especially violent cartoons or movies) and support them in providing healthy meals and adequate rest.
Talk to someone (such as a counselor) who has professional knowledge and skills in working with grief, death and dying, and who will listen to you with respect and support. Other good listeners may be trusted family members, a good friend, or your priest.
Eat healthy and regular meals, exercise, and do things that you normally like doing, even if you don’t feel like doing them, at this time in your healing process. This will help to re-establish your usual routines that have been interrupted by your grief.
You are not alone
Community grief is a shared time of sadness and loss. However, knowing that you are not alone and that others are also trying to cope with a tragic loss, can bring a community together and be a time for hope and for positive change…a time to take a look at the issues that exist within today’s society, as one grieving mother recently asked us to do.
Suzan Babcock, MIIM, M.Ed., is a long-time resident of Taiwan. During her stay here, she has managed four successful careers in education, cross-cultural relations and counseling, although being a mother has been her favorite.
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