Dr. Dale Larson joins Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley to talk about the shocking loss of a child, particularly in an environment that’s supposed to be “safe” such as school or during an extracurricular activity. He specializes in traumatic loss and teaches at Santa Clara University. He was particularly in the headlines after the Newtown tragedy, and says that many bereaved people can just tell when someone will listen. Dr. Gloria Horsley has experienced that, having worked as a therapist for several years and having many people approach her simply because they want to share.
Comments can seem like “uncaring responses” after a tragedy because a lot of people simply don’t know what to say. This is especially true after a stigmatized loss, such as a mass murder. “I think you end up feeling in these experiences so completely alone,” says Dr. Larson. It’s common to think nobody can empathize in situations that seem so unique. That’s not true, but it does mean you should seek out proper support networks.
“Normal” is What You Used to Be
It’s also common to find that some friendships fade after a traumatic event. “You have to create a new normal,” says Dr. Heidi Horsley. It’s up to the bereaved to transform their grief. She’s been tracking widows from 9/11 for ten years, and has seen first-hand how transformations take place. However, it took a long time, and it took years for some people to embrace a new identity.
Through research, Dr. Larson has found that growth and distress co-exist. “You can still cry…because we still have those connections,” he says. Continuing bonds are possible, but require work. It’s a balance of keeping that relationship healthy without all the added stress. It takes practice, and slip ups will happen.