I was awakend by the blast that morning too. My mind raced as I considered what might have happened, and like many others, I convinced myself that if it were serious, sirens would have been blaring through the streets.

As we learned in the ensuing hours, despite the lack of sirens, the situation was very serious indeed. Our neighborhood has been shaken. There has been a range and depth of reactions to the news. And how could there not be?

As the director of the Center for Grief Recovery and resident of Evanston, I believe this is an important moment. The shock and horror of the events surrounding the death of Colin Dalebroux call for attention. Both adults and children need to process their thoughts and feelings. Our community needs to come together to grapple with this trauma.

The terrain of sudden, unexpected, violent loss is unfamiliar to most of us. As a result, we may wish to look away and get on with business as usual; others may go so far into the trauma without guidelines they may wind up coming out feeling unraveled. Neither of these understandable reactions is optimal. This is a time to work together as a community and draw from our resources as best as we can.

Stop the Action

The first step in dealing with a death in a neighborhood, institution or workplace is to stop the normal activities and reschedule so that people can come together to share their thoughts and feelings. Depending on the setting or organization, this moratorium will take differing forms. In a school it is relatively easy to call all of the staff and students together in the auditorium, causing a complete halt in all business. However, in a business, where everyone has a varied schedule, this will be much more difficult. In any case, taking time to take each other’s emotional pulse is important.

Focus to Feel/Talk/Share

One of the most healing endeavors is to make time to express, process and share the feelings are evoked by grief and loss. Stopping the usual activities provides an opening to allow for sharing. If it is not possible for all staff to be together, then a series of smaller meetings may be the start, leading up to a larger gathering.

Use Differing Formats

Because people function differently to start with, and react in their own style, it is important to offer as many different formats as possible. For example, some people find a group very intimidating and will not be able to express their thoughts and feelings. A wide range of milieus, from casual hallway chats to serious private sessions, can prove very useful.

Provide Many Opportunities

We need to remind ourselves that one chance to grieve is not enough. Some people may be in shock and not be able to take advantage of an event. So the more opportunities and repetitions offered, the more effective will be the healing. Many formats and many varieties of activities can support a diverse group of people.

Utilize Diverse Helpers

People are complicated. It is effective therefore to use a wide spectrum of helping persons, taking into account the uniqueness of people and their emotional/behavioral responses. Some people may feel perfectly at home with a cleric, while others either lack any religious background or even blame God for the trauma. Some people may be comfortable spilling out their deepest emotions with a volunteer while they recoil at the very mention of talking with a psychotherapist.

Conclusion

The above process is designed to allow the group or workplace or neighborhood to take responsibility for those issues that deeply affect its constituency. The process provides the maximum individualization, while still encouraging people to share what they can with each other. Taking into account our individual uniqueness does not require us to carry our burdens alone. Sharing emotions, responses, concerns and memories can be very healing.