Fear and grief often go hand in hand and at the moment, with the atrocities which have unfolded in Paris, there is a lot of fear about. I don’t know about you, but in our family those of us living in cities feel very unsettled and anxious. My older children are avoiding the tube, avoiding certain busy public areas and cancelling social plans because they are often in high risk areas. There is a feeling and a dread that these cities will be hit, not if but when.
When we, (and by that I mean those who were not directly affected by the attacks), watch film footage as well as reading the newspapers about people’s shocking experiences, we cannot help but think about what happened and imagine what it would have been like to be there. We are bound to have a reaction. That can vary from ignoring it, which is both a protection strategy and a denial that it could ever happen to us, to feeling the grief very deeply of the loss of life, the awfulness of it and the loss of feeling secure either in the air or on the ground and probably anywhere between those two poles.
Fear is very much a part of grief and at the moment there is a plethora of global grief.
Displaced families fleeing Syria, people dying in air crashes or even disappearing in the case of MH370, people shot and killed whilst on holiday and enjoying the simple pleasures of a music concert together or a cup of coffee. Whilst family members begin to mourn their dead and missing family members, the world grieves for the loss of safety, and the freedom not to think about these things. Deep in our hearts we wonder if it is safe to send our families out into the world and we hope and pray they come back safe and sound. We don’t want to be those families left behind after atrocities and we fear that we might be.
If you have ever grieved, then you will understand that when one death in a family occurs, it often destabilises us temporarily because we wonder who might be next. It can feel like the rug has been pulled out from under your feet and it can be terrifying. From the child whose Mother dies, who asks Daddy, "will you die too?" to the adults who feel fear at the thought of losing another sibling because they won’t feel like a family anymore and they cannot bear it. Fear can show up in all sorts of guises after a death. Some common ones are not wanting to leave the house, a fear of driving, not going out after dark, constant calling and checking on family members, inability to work effectively, constant worry and anxiety and physical problems like stomach aches, headaches, panic attacks, insomnia and other symptoms.
How can communities manage this fear? Well, coming together physically and emotionally is helpful. We are seeing friends surround those who have experienced the terror in Paris, to support them and rejoice in their lucky escapes. We witness Paris, lead by Francois Hollande uniting in big and small ways to face the terror and not be bowed, in the same way Winston Churchill rallied his country behind him in the face of the terror of war in 1939. People are gathering in churches, in communities, in spaces and in homes to mourn and to acknowledge what has happened. This needs to happen.
Things are not so dissimilar for individuals who grieve. Gathering with family and friends, mourning, talking, reaching out to support each other are all helpful. Grief is so much worse when you feel alone with it, and we know what fear feels like at 3am in the morning when it is dark and quiet. Talk to your children, reach out to friends and family and keep the dialogue going. Share your fears because then they start to lose their grip over time.
If grief or fear feels overwhelming or traumatic, reach out and seek help from the talking professions, we are all here to help where we can.
Photo credit: Alain Van den Hende / Foter.com / CC BY-SA