Six friends, all current or former Boone High School students swerved off the road yesterday resulting in the deaths of Laura Grant, 17 and her boyfriend Eddie Culbehouse, 19.  Elizabeth Harrison, 18, was critically injured.  Also surviving the crash is Elizabeth’s boyfriend Hershall “Billy” Keeton, age 19, and Connor Geis and Alisa Pelot, both 17 years old.  This sudden tragedy has and will continue to change many lives forever.

Few words can express the shock and sadness felt by family, friends and the community when news of young lives full of hopes and dreams are ended by a fatal accident.  Shock, sadness, disbelief, anger, confusion, and guilt are some of the feelings that will be experienced by those affected by this tragedy.  Coping with this sudden loss will be difficult, but there are some important tips that can help:

1. Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel or act: There is no timeline for grieving and no “one way” to cope with a sudden tragic loss.  It is normal for people sharing the same grief experience to behave in completely different ways.  For example, some people cry a lot while others shed very few tears.  Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling and process those emotions with your friends and family or with a counselor.

2. Be careful not to “numb out”: The pain of grief and sudden loss can be overwhelming.  Sometimes people will attempt to numb their pain with the use of alcohol and drugs.  Although at times, being intoxicated may offer temporary relief, it never helps a person truly process their grief in a healthy way – it only compounds the feelings of pain and suffering.

3. Express your grief in a creative way: Write your feelings out in a journal.  Speak about the person you lost at their funeral or memorial service.  Create a scrapbook to celebrate their life or volunteer at an organization in honor of your loved one.  Expressing yourself while feeling your emotions is a healthy and productive way to process your pain, and honor the person you lost.

4. Prepare for future “grief triggers”: Realize it is normal to experience overwhelming grief and sadness suddenly when the memory of the loss is “triggered” by a certain event or conversation.  For example, the anniversary of the death, the person’s birthday, graduation, holidays, driving by the place where the accident occurred, or engaging in a conversation about the person.  Expect these “trigger’s” to overwhelm you with emotion and go ahead and allow yourself to feel and process them at the time they occur.  An example, “I am feeling so sad that he is gone,” or “Every time I see her locker I feel like I want to cry.”

5. Don’t be afraid to seek help: Grief and pain can cause us to want to withdraw from the world and  isolate ourselves and hide our feelings.  Sometimes we don’t think we can share what we are going through with our friends and family because they are grieving too, but they may want to talk about it too. Talking about grief and pain by retelling the story or sharing how you feel is part of the process of getting through the grief.  It is important to talk to a guidance counselor at school, a professional counselor, a youth pastor or join a grief support group.

Remember that you may feel sadness and pain at different times and in different ways.  There is no such thing as “getting over it” when you have lost someone you love.   Grieving is part of the process for people affected by this tragedy on their journey to accepting the reality of learning to live life in a healthy way without their loved ones.  It is normal for this to be a difficult journey.

The survivors of this tragedy may also experience symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the coming months.  One of the most effective therapeutic techniques for treating traumatic experiences like fatal car accident is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).  A survivor of a traumatic event where someone they know was hurt or killed has to process their emotions and thoughts about the experience in order for healing to occur.  EMDR has been officially approved by the American Psychological Association as an effective treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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Article Written by Crystal Hollenbeck