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How to help when your community has experienced traumatic loss


No amount of planning can prepare us for sudden, unexpected, and traumatic loss in our communities. It can shake our sense of stability and draw out fears that we have buried deep. This is only a taste of what those closest to those who have died feel. Feelings of helplessness, anger or compassion can be overwhelming. We respond out of these feelings by either moving towards or moving away from the pain.

How, when death has come traumatically, can we help?

Regardless of how close we are to grieving family members, helping begins by managing our own experience. How can we do this?

Depending on how close we are to those closest to the loss, we have different practical things we can do. For a start, let’s look at the majority of us who share the community.

BE A GOOD NEIGHBOUR This applies to all of us who live and work in the community.

PRACTICAL SUPPORT This applies to those who are friends and neighbours with those who are closest to the loss, or those who want something to do.

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT We provide emotional support when the person grieving most chooses to allow us to see their deepest pain. When writing about Traumatic Grief After Homicide, Holly Aldrich and Diya Kallivayalil wrote: “Develop the capacity to sit in the anguish of another, to fully stay present but not intrusive, to speak but also to be quiet and fully connected.”

In all our helping, it is wise to remember that grief is deeply personal and is sometimes never resolved. We will not understand the pain of another, and we cannot make it go away. Helping is something we do over months and years, not only in the first days and weeks after a loss.

If you or someone you know is in need of immediate support, contact the Interior Crisis Line 1-888-353-2273

For more information on grief and grieving:

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