When tragedy strikes… how do you respond?

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Sabrina Almeida

Have you ever wondered how the end will come? Most of us do not want to have such “morbid” thoughts. However, the only thing that is certain in life is death. And irrespective of whether one accepts this inevitability or not, we all secretly wish that when it happens, it will be quick and painless.

It is my sincere hope that this is how life ended for the ten people who were fatally wounded in the van attack by Alek Minassian on Monday. For their family members, friends and co-workers, on the other hand, the recovery will be quite excruciating. With no definite timeline for when the hurting will end.

While the loss of a loved one is painful for all, a prolonged illness or age-related demise is easier to process, even come to terms with. Perhaps this is because one has had some time to prepare. And in the case of a debilitating medical condition or an ailment (or infirmities) brought on by age, one might even find oneself praying for it. But dealing with an unexpected and tragic loss occurring because of the events in North York (or in Edmonton, Las Vegas, London or Paris last year) can take a lifetime.

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A dear friend passed away suddenly two weeks ago… and all who knew him are having a difficult time accepting it. More importantly, there are no words to describe what his immediately family is going through or to console them. It takes me back more than 35 years, to the untimely death of my dad.

A sudden heart attack claimed them both.

My thoughts go to my mum and the mental anguish experienced from the time she received that dreadful phone call to her flight from Mumbai to Calcutta and finally organizing his funeral.

For family members of Minassian’s victims, it is probably worse. As they wait for the confirmation, desperately hoping that this is a mistake. I went through this process for several years. Since I was unable to attend my father’s funeral, closure was a long time coming.

Yet I cannot compare my experience or that of my friend’s family to that of someone who’s life was deliberately and viciously taken by another. Was this really the creator’s plan or Satan’s?

Denial, anger, remorse, regret, physical illness, PTSD—there are a range of emotions and stages one could experience as a result according to mental health experts. Or even all of them. After all the grieving process is different for each one. And while this is normal, those who have suffered it will bear witness to the fact that letting go of the anger (and regret) is critical to healing and any hope of moving on.

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A friend shared a remarkable story of a California family who forgave the man responsible for a car accident that claimed the lives of their young three children. Of course, the act was not intentional as the crash was caused by mechanical failure. Nonetheless they welcomed him into their home and made him a part of their lives realizing that he too was in pain.

This was exemplified by Anne-Marie D’Amico’s family. The vivacious and altruistic 30-year-old was the first victim to be identified. According to media reports, her family hopes “that in this time, people fight with the same altruism rather than anger and hatred”.

As we discussed the tragic events of what was meant to be a beautiful spring day, another friend narrated his personal experience of coping with a tragedy, somewhat like this one. A family member was fatally struck by an impaired driver around a year ago. As police traced the events to determine the driver’s identity, his family came to an unusual decision. They did not want to know who was responsible. Like the California family, they believed that he or she was probably as troubled and in as much pain as they were. More importantly, they felt that not knowing would prevent them from harbouring any negative feelings towards the person and help them make peace with the tragedy that tore through their lives.

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Although these gracious actions may seem as inconceivable as the catastrophic events themselves, they are the perfect antidote to the gruesome acts perpetrated all over the world by extremism, hatred and the mentally-unstable.

While we would give anything to bring our loved ones back… that simply will not happen. What is possible though is to let go of the anger, pain and other negative emotions that hold you back so that you can find peace and live a fulfilling life. – CINEWS

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