July 21, 2016 (A month since the tragic accident at Trasi)
By Dr Zita Lobo
And ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth
until the hour of separation.
And when the separation is permanent, it is profound. If then it has come as a bolt from the clear sky, unexpected, it must be inexplicable.
This is what the parents and relatives of the children involved in the school bus tragedy at Trasi must be going through. Accidents happen, lives are lost, but when the loss and damages are cumulative are we as a society ready for this?
Soon after the crash, good Samaritans rushed to help, while they were busy, others, the self appointed news dispensers, not wanting to miss out any action of the tragedy were busy video graphing and relaying the gory, graphic, tragic pictures as if the official description of the tragedy was not enough for the whole region to go down on their knees and ask "Why?", "Why were innocent beautiful lives snatched away in such a disaster?"
Next, the victims rushed to hospitals while the tragic news reached the parents and relatives.
Meanwhile, some lawyers visited the hospitals and volunteered to manage the cases. This is followed by the last rites of the victims who succumbed to the fatal injuries.
For some time thereafter, we analyze the road and transport systems, the corrupt government, the uncompromising discipline of school administrations, driving discipline, parents’ helplessness and then collectively forget the incident as a society. We go on about our business while, the most affected in those tragedies are left to themselves to fathom what just happened to them.
All people don’t grieve in the same manner. Grieving is a personal process. Whether it is the loss of a dear one or coming face to face with the prospects of impending death, people react differently. They try to find answers from theology, karma or any answer they become fatalistic. Some might just be stoic enduring emotional pain without complaining.
Each one has a different grief threshold. Some are used to showing emotion while others keep their tears private. People go through five stages of grief according to Elisabeth Kϋbler Ross. There is no time frame or order by which people mourn. In some countries doctors are specially trained on the awareness of this process of grieving to help patients and their families to cope with bad news. Though they see death and dying on an everyday basis they are not immune tothe feelings and emotions of the people who are under their care.
The five stages of grief and loss are:
1. Denial and Isolation: "No!!", "This cannot happen to me" it is normal to react thus. We try to listen to only what we want to hear. One cannot fathom the reality of the situation and so the mind does not accept the facts.
2. Anger: Primarily, we feel disappointed or distressed at the loss and this is manifested in anger. In this particular case, anger towards the driver who caused the accident or authorities who might be directly or indirectly responsible for the driver to speed up. Anger towards the healthcare providers, especially doctors. Anger itself is an irrational emotionand it can even be directed towards the person who has died. Sometimes it could be diverted at self, and guilt can override sanity and people can inflict pain on self to the extent to even commit suicide.
3. Bargaining: "God, please don’t let this happen, I’ll change my ways".
"If this is not true, I will vow to pay a visit to your shrine" or "Please don’t let this happen to me"
Even the thoughts of "If the kids were sent to another school… another vehicle… What if...
All these come through feelings of helplessness and vulnerability.
4. Depression: Feeling low energy and listlessness is a natural after-effect of losing someone precious in life. Sadness and regret, helplessness, and the realization that one has to live without the person’s presence can catapult the person into being introverted for some time. With support and reassurance and patience people can be helped to come to terms with reality. Empathy and timely assistance can help cope.
5. Acceptance: At this stage a person comes to terms with the loss of the loved one. It is certainly not a happy acceptance but a quiet reconciliation of one’s own mortality or of a dear one’s, as inevitable. Perhaps, the consolation and condolence of well-meaning people could help her or him to accept the inevitable. When death is sudden and tragic some people might never come to this stage and may stop at depression or anger.
The survival instinct in human being gives hope for themselves and for others who depend on them- this hope is what the society should come forward to give the grieving. It is not only for the parish, or nuns or any support group, but any person who can call herself and himself a neighbor could help cope. It is for the family and friends to support and help the survivors of these tragedies. All they need is compassion and time out to grieve.