Even when not known personally, the death of a community leader such as an officer can impact people in unexpected ways.
“Public figures often unify communities and inspire community members. It is natural for community members to feel a sense of connection to their leaders,” said Lynne Grey, licensed behavioral health clinician with Partners Behavioral Health Management.
“It is this sense of connection that triggers grief when a community leader dies.”
This can be more intense when the death is unexpected, such as in the case with Trooper Samuel Bullard who died during a crash which took place in the line of duty May 21.
“In the days and weeks following the death of a community leader, it’s common to experience a wide range of thoughts and feelings. Community members may find themselves feeling distracted, irritated, anxious, moody, angry, regretful, and sad,” said Grey.
These emotions can be surprising in their intensity and frequency, especially for people who did not know the individual personally; however, personal interaction is not required for an individual to have an impact on the life of another.
“These expressions of grief are entirely normal,” said Grey.
Jordan G.S. Hutson, licensed clinical professional counselor with Hugh Chatham Behavioral Health, agreed.
“Each experience related to death invokes a wide variety of emotion. The grief response is so unexpected that it can create an expectation within us to reject or deny our emotions as a whole. This response can lead us to feeling that we are experiencing grief incorrectly,” said Hutson.
“There are no rules when it comes to grief.”
That’s why places like churches and Mountain Valley Hospice as well as Partners and HCMH offer a variety of grief services.
“You don’t have to have a patient with us to use our services,” said Kelly Ingram, bereavement coordinator for Mountain Valley Hospice, “and they are always free.”
With the assistance of a counselor, individuals can figure how the best way for them to process grief.
“Therapy provides a platform to work through each stage of grief as needed,” said Hutson. “There are several therapeutic modalities that have been statistically proven to help with grief, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).”
There are a variety of ways to process grief, however.
“Engaging in community vigils can be especially healing. Connecting with fellow community members experiencing grief is often quite helpful. Also, looking inward to explore how these feelings of grief may stem from past losses that were not fully mourned is valuable,” said Grey.
“When processing any loss, it is important to give one’s self the time and space to mourn both publicly and privately.”
It’s also important to remember that each person’s process is unique.
“The awareness that each person’s journey will have distinct differences based off of the person’s own perspective and needs [is helpful],” according to Grey.
Grey also encouraged community members to be aware of basic self-care when going through grief.
“During times of grief, it is important to be compassionate and kind to one’s self and engage in effective self-care practices such as resting, talking with supportive peers, engaging in hobbies, and spending time with loved ones,” said Grey.
“Ultimately, the grieving process takes time. One cannot rush it or avoid it. The best way out of grief is through it.”
“If you feel alone in the process, this is a time to reach out and know that there is support,” said Hutson. “Grief is a unifying process that we all walk through.”
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.