The recent tragedy in Italy when the cruise ship sank and many people died touches all of us in so many ways.

My girlfriend and I spent New Year’s on a cruise, and it was a time of joy and a experience of happiness.

So too were the hopes and desires of all the families who decided to vacation on their cruise, only to have it turn out to be their worst nightmare. Death is always part of life; often it is expected, such as after the culmination of a long term illness.

This was not the case for the crew and passengers of the cruise ship in Italy. What was supposed to be a joyous and happy time for thousands of people’s lives turned into their worst nightmare. Dying in a time of expected happiness was not the plan or desire of those who lost their lives. Their surviving family members lives are also forever transformed.

Those who survived have invisible wounds of betrayal of trust in those whose task it was to provide a safe and trusting environment for their anticipated time of rejoicing and enjoying the best experience that life had to offer them at that time.

This disaster touches all of us, whether we knew anyone on that ship or not, whether we have ever taken a cruise or not. When life’s events take a turn that ends in tragedy, we question many things, as well as grieve for people whose live’s we personally know nothing about.

On a deeper level, we can identify with the fact that anyone of us reading this post could have chosen to sail on that cruise ship; or had experiences where joy turns into tragedy.

Disasters occur. Earthquakes, tornados, floods kill people who had no expectation of death and whose families go on with the wound deeply embedded in their souls for a lifetime. This tragedy reminds us all that life is never as safe as we as children believed it was. We expect fathers and mothers to protect us from the dangers ‘out there’ in the ‘real’ world. Life is supposed to be safe. Bad things are not supposed to happen to good people, but as this tragedy shows us once again, it happens all too often.

Our reader’s know this fact all too well, each in our own way, each of us having suffered losses that were not ‘fair’ at all.

To the family members of the deceased, may they cherish the lives of the loved one’s they lost as they take all the time necessary for their greiving; for the family members of those whose bodies have not yet been found, may you find hope in knowing that their loved one’s will always remain in their hearts and slowly, very slowly will the joy of the experience of the love of their beloved begin to take shape over the grief and uncertainty of the moment, whether there is a body to bury or not.

To the survivors of the tragedy who lost more than their material possessions, may they once again realize that life is filled with uncertainties, that safety and trust need to be earned, that life is always worth living and that may they begin to resume a life filled with knowledge that this horrible tragedy has taught them a lesson – to appreciate each and every day of life fully.

Richard Beck 2012

Richard Beck

RICHARD BECK, LCSW, BCD, CGP, FAGPA is an Adjunct Lecturer at Columbia University School of Social Work;  a Psychotherapist in private practice in New York City, with expertise in treating trauma and working with individuals, couples and groups; was recently elected President of the International Association of Group Psychotherapy and Group Process; is a Lecturer in Social Work in Psychiatry (Voluntary) at Weil Cornell Medical Colleague and a Professional Associate (Psychiatry) - Social Work- New York Presbyterian Hospital. The son of two Holocaust Survivors, Richard began his grief/trauma training very early in life. Richard Beck was recently awarded the Social Responsibility Award by the Group Foundation for the Advancement of Mental Health.  It is awarded to AGPA members who have "Provided "Exceptional Acts of Service that have Benefited the Community at Large." Recent presentations have been in Belfast, Ireland, Pretoria, South Africa, Cairo, Egypt; Istanbul, Turkey, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, Malmo, Sweden, Berlin, Germany and Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and has upcoming Keynote Presentations in Greece, and upcoming Keynote Lectures in Greece, Italy, and Egypt. Richard has conducted well over 1000 hours of trauma groups with survivors, their families, witnesses and rescue workers after the terror attack on September 11th, 2001. Richard went to Baton Rouge to conduct groups for therapists after Hurricane Katrina. Richard co-authored an award-winning article about the experience of a therapist traumatized by the same event as the people he was treating in groups.   Recently, Richard coordinated the grief response after a crane accident in New York City and also participated in the American Group Psychotherapy Association response to a film company after an FDNY firefighter died during the filming of a movie. Recent publications and presentation have a focus on Loneliness and the Desire to Connect; “Unique Benefit of Group following Traumatic Events";  “Lesson’s Learned in Working with Witnesses, Survivors and Family Members after Traumatic Events”.   Cooking, gardening, and fishing all over the world continue to be of Richard’s passions.  Richard was a guest expert on the radio show Healing the Grieving Heart, discussing Recovering From a Traumatic Event. To hear his interview with Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley. click on the following link:

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