Loss, Grief and Verbal First Aid
We don't usually watch the news because it is usually so filled with madness and fear, but a little while back my husband needed to hear the weather report. Unfortunately before we could find out about any imminent storms, we first had to hear every viscous detail in the ongoing BP Gulf disaster, some dire predictions about a new financial debacle and finally an insane, unpredicted, and vicious attack on nursery children in China.
They did not explain much except to say that a man (perhaps the third in recent history) barged into a nursery and began attacking them wildly with a hammer. He then poured gasoline over himself and lit a match.
I have worked and been friends with countless military and paramilitary men and women. I can't imagine anyone, regardless of stress hardiness or training, who would not be disgusted or horrified by that situation. I certainly was and I have heard stories and stood at scenes that have made life-long imprints.
I have been teaching Verbal First Aid principles to lay and professional audiences since 1994. And somehow it always comes down to this. At some point during the talk, a hand slowly raises and the question--in one form or another-- is asked:
What do you say when a parent loses a kid? What do you say when it seems like there's nothing to say?
The Two Questions of Suffering and Healing
I hear two parts to that question:
The first part is: What do we say to the parent, to the child or to any other injured party to help facilitate healing in the most immediately necessary way?