Dorie L. Griggs

Grief is Necessary, Normal Response to Tragedy

By Dorie L. Griggs
First Published in Southern Newspaper Publishers Association eBulletin
March 6, 2003

Journalists cover tragedies on a daily basis, and they must develop a level of emotional distance from the events to be professional. Although distance is a helpful coping mechanism in the short term, long term it can be harmful to the individual. Becoming emotionally distant from unfolding situations can cut off the grieving process.

Grief is an emotion many of us try to avoid or minimize. Grieving is not comfortable, so we try to move on quickly to more pleasant emotions. The truth is -- we need to grieve as the emotion hits us. If we suppress the grief, other aspects of our lives can be affected.

Constant suppression of grief can lead to emotional distance in other relationships, physical symptoms of depression, as well as other physical ailments. Erich Fromm wrote, "To spare oneself from grief at all costs can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness."

Certainly, a level of detachment is necessary when covering tragic events, but complete detachment from any pain or hurt is not desirable. It can lead to larger problems, physically and mentally. If you are grieving:

It's normal to be upset and feel down after a time of loss or tragedy. It can take up to five years to fully process the death of a loved one. We never "get over" the feeling of loss, but we do reach a point where the grief isn't all consuming.

Grieving is a normal emotion. It is normal to feel lonely, cry and question the meaning of life. But, if you are experiencing lingering problems at work and/or at home, you may be experiencing depression.

Signs of depression include: a change in weight, difficulty sleeping, or a general sense of helplessness. Depression is treatable, but you must see a doctor.

During a time of loss and grief, treat yourself well. Don't set unrealistic personal goals. Take time for yourself: Take a walk, treat yourself to a day at the spa, play a game of basketball, rent a funny movie.

Remember, the people you care about want to help you through this time. Let them know how they can help, even if it means waiting to visit until you're up to it. Above all, take care of yourself.

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The information provided in this column is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice.

Dorie L. Griggs holds a Master of Divinity degree and her ministry is to journalists. Contact her via e-mail: dorie@stanleyleary.com

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