On February 27, 2012 the Chardon community was forever changed. That day impacted many – the youth and staff members in the cafeteria, those in the building, students in the district and surrounding schools, parents of students who found out about the shooting while at work, community members at home or work who were unable to do anything but watch the events on TV, families across the state and nation, and MOST importantly, the parents and families of the victims who were attacked, injured and lost their lives. Forever in everyone’s heart, where for many joy, love, laughter as well as sense of order and safety once belonged, there will remain a hole. All have experienced some sense of despair and loss as lives were senselessly taken in a place that was once known as safe. No one will suffer pain and loss like those who have lost their loved ones. Every day presents triggers and reminders that others cannot understand, but many will continue to feel loss, and often confusion, because their everyday belief system has changed.
Grief, in general, is an individual process. It is shaped by who we are – our experiences, religious beliefs, culture, physical health, and the nature of the death. Even “normal” grief can be very complex and difficult to move through depending upon the individual and his experiences. Grief encompasses our mind, body, and spirit as it takes us through paths that are experienced emotionally, physically, and socially. It often lasts longer than most people can even realize. Without an understanding of this, family and friends of survivors can often feel helpless and become frustrated because they want the person to move on, and it just isn’t possible.
A Sudden Tragedy
Sudden traumatic death complicates everything and often slows the entire process down. It raises several additional issues for survivors as they have not been able to prepare themselves for bereavement. In fact, during the first six months to a year, survivors are especially vulnerable to physical illness, job loss, economic hardships, and loss of social status. Their immune system ends up working overtime. It is said by previous survivors of loved ones that after a couple of YEARS some of the pain will subside, and there will be brief intervals of not thinking about their family member. However, several factors can intensify and further lengthen this process as well, such as the level of violence, intentionality, and preventability. Involvement of the media and legal system can also intrude upon a survivor’s healing process.
A sudden tragic event shatters the greater community’s sense of order and thrusts many into a world forever changed. Survivors may experience a greater sense of vulnerability and heightened anxiety. The safe world that was once known, no longer exists. We are fearful for ourselves, our family and our friends and worry that, just maybe, an act of violence might happen again.
Fortunately, out of all pain and grief, there is hope, healing, and acceptance; not acceptance of the event’s senselessness or violence, but acceptance and hope that life can still move on. Slowly, there will be less distress for survivors, and while there will always be hard days or reminders of the tragedy, eventually simple tasks such as going to work or school won’t seem so overwhelming. Every day presents an opportunity to offer support and compassion to one another. It is going to be a long journey to reach that hope again, but in order to heal, it is important that we all work together to find the right path that supports each and every survivor in the community.
Note from the Editor: This article was written by Angela L. Daugherty and Tracy L. Jordan.
Angela L. Daugherty, MSSA, LISW-S
Angela Daugherty is currently the Executive Director of Family Pride of Northeast Ohio. She is an independently licensed social worker who graduated with her Master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University. She is an experienced clinician who has specialized in children, youth and families within the education system and prevention services since 1998.
Assistance for the article provided by:
Tracy L. Jordan, CA
Tracy Jordan has been the Victim Advocate at the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office since 2003. As the Advocate, Tracy responds to the scene of the crime and meets with the victims immediately to help minimize the emotional and psychological stresses resulting from being the victim of crime or trauma.