Seven weeks ago, on Aug. 5, Rockne Newell opened fire on a room full of unsuspecting people at a Ross Township supervisors' meeting. Three men died as a result. Others were injured. All who were there have emotional scars they will live with forever.
A community woke up the next morning in shock and grief.
"There are moments in time that defy understanding. What happened in Ross Township is one of those times," said the Rev. Dr. Sherrie Sneed, director of pastoral care, speaking at Pocono Medical Center's community health event, which was held at the Western Pocono Community Library in Brodheadsville. About 50 people attended Thursday evening. Members of the Pleasant Valley Middle School and High School chorus sang "God Bless America" and "Proud to be An American."
The Rev. Sneed tried to answer the question of the day: How does one begin healing after something like this?
She said grief is not logical, it is unique to each of us, it is not a fast process and we can't help but grieve.
"Part of being human is to grieve our losses. The one choice we do have is to choose to grieve in a healthy and constructive fashion. There are four phases of grief. They do not go one right after the other and vary in the times of coming and going until their work is finished.
1. Imitation. Feelings such as shock, denial, numb, self-anesthetization, anger, going in slow motion and fast forward at the same time, as well as others that cannot be verbally expressed because of their intensity and combination, are present. Applecart upset is the order of the day.
2. Definition. This is the time of trying to understand what has happened and is happening. Seek and Find missions to get more details, information, etc. are part of this. We talk to friends, to neighbors, to family members, to medical staff, we read books, we watch films. All of these are efforts to find out more about our loss and what could have caused it. This is an attempt at damage control, to limit the pain. "If I can just make sense of what happened, maybe I won't feel so badly."
3. Mourning. During this time the sense of the loss is unavoidable. We are deeply grieving. It's like being in the middle of a tunnel and knowing that we can't go back to the beginning and we are afraid to go forward because we don't know what the rest of the tunnel holds for us, yet we don't want to stay in the middle for the rest of our days either.
4. Reintegration. During our moving through the process we find we are getting interested in things again that were meaningful before and that relate to ourselves, our family and our community. We get glimpses of these interests throughout the process and as we experience more healing the interest increases. It is our way of integrating the changes that have occurred and reinvesting in life again.
Sneed offered some ways to be of help when someone is grieving.
Ÿ Acknowledge what has happened. Don't stop talking about what happened. Encourage sharing memories. Stop only if the person grieving asks you to.
Ÿ Listen to the person who is grieving.
Ÿ Respond in your own authentic way. Be the same person you have always been with the one grieving.
Ÿ Accept the other as he or she is. Don't expect someone who is able to cry easily to start keeping a stiff upper lip or someone who is private to suddenly gush out their feelings.
Ÿ Offer to help and make your offers specific. General offers like "Call me if you need something" are too vague for someone who has had their whole life tumbled by a loss.
Ÿ Allow the other person privacy. We all need time out from time to time. Ask the person grieving what are his or her needs.
Ÿ Relate to the other as a whole person. Just because someone has suffered a loss does not mean they are suddenly a child again. Communicate with the person grieving as an adult as they are an adult, and ask them what they find helpful. Don't assume what they need and encourage dependent behavior. In the long run it will not help them to gather their lives together constructively.
Ÿ Trust the other to lead you. Everyone grieves on their own time table and in their own way. The grief experience is as individual as the person grieving.
Ÿ Give genuine hope. Being with someone and letting them express their sadness is one of the best ways to give hope, because they feel your presence in their time of need.
Ÿ Carry the other in your heart and soul.
Ÿ Open yourself to what this experience holds for you.
Ÿ Journey with the other in search for meaning. Let the person grieving tell you what the experience means to them.
Joe Kearns, MS, CRC, LPC rehabilitation therapist spoke about a message of hope.
"We are one phone call away from the phone call we don't want to get," said Kearns.
He said people should, "A: Turn to each other in times of tragedies; B: Time does heal traumas; and C: We should 'show up,' be available."
"A, B and C need to be done in unison. Time alone does not heal," he said. "Take care of yourself ... feeling bad is a normal reaction ... Recognize that you have one life to live.
"It is like the runner passing the baton to the next runner who passes it on to the next. It is passed on with hope," said Kearns.
Kathleen Kuch, the president/CEO of the Pocono Medical Center's board of directors concluded with, "Rev. Sneed says that as a Monroe County family, we will do what we do best ... be there. That's what we want you to know. We are Monroe County, we are family and we are here for you."