Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Your grief is real and it's normal; don't be embarrassed about it

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DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I'm 65, retired, but I've driven a school bus to keep busy for the past six years. I drive kindergarten to Grade 6 students. The Monday after the Friday atrocity in Connecticut, my morning started as usual, but, when I saw my first little one waiting for the bus, I suddenly felt the urge to cry. It was a total surprise to me and I told myself, "You're being ridiculous." I composed myself and completed my morning run. When I got home I did a few chores, then sat down in my office chair, and it hit me. I cried like I never cried before. My tears literally soaked my face and hands. I thought I'd never stop sobbing. I can't explain why I was crying. I don't know if it was sorrow for the little kids who died in Connecticut or the fact that "my" kids were safe. On Wednesday I went to the school to pick up "my" kids for the afternoon ride home. As usual I went inside the school to pick up my "check-off" list. I was standing there talking to the secretary when I heard the little kids singing in the gym. I was ready to burst into tears, so I quickly retreated to my bus.

What's wrong with me? How long is this going to last? I have no problem seeing a counsellor, but I'm not sure I could talk to anyone about this because I find it a bit embarrassing. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you. -- School Bus Driver

Dear School Bus Driver: You need not be embarrassed. Deep grief is normal in your situation, as you take care of little children and their safety is your job. You identify strongly with the people in Connecticut and it hits you right where you live. Realize that people all over the United States and Canada and other parts of the world are crying about this tragedy too. As a bus driver, you care about "your" children and your mind leaps to this kind of thought: "What if one of them got hurt at my school, or a whole classroom?" or "What if they were in my care at the time?" The fear and the sadness strike deep in your heart, understandably. How long will it last? Who knows, as this was a traumatic situation, but it will certainly last longer if you don't talk about it with someone. Many workplaces have group insurance that covers counselling, and schools are made aware of specialized grief counselling available when something traumatic happens there. Ask the principal or guidance counsellor at your school for suggestions. He or she might be able to talk about it with you as well. Meanwhile, you should know this: Deep uncontrolled crying to the point of sobbing is a good remedy for deep grief. Let it happen. At the end, you will feel some peace and clarity, and know that you have honoured those gone and the families left behind. We are all human beings connected by this Earth. It is good that we can feel for each other. For you, it will take a while. You are reminded each day of the children's deaths by the nature of your job, as are the teachers in the school. Be patient with yourself and get help with this.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I am having a hard time celebrating anything this year. The horror in the States with the kids, my mom's death in November and the current illness of my father all hurt. The end-of -the-world crap has annoyed me no end and who knows what's coming down the pike for 2013 across the ocean. I am sick at heart, I think. I haven't even felt like attending holiday seasonal parties -- missed the one at work -- and have stayed home with my dog and my wife and kids every night. My wife is sober-sided too. How do we buck up? I have never been such a sad sack. I'm not totally lie-down depressed but I am so lackadaisical about everything. Any suggestions would be appreciated. -- Sad Sack of the Family, Winnipeg

Dear Sad Sack: Although it's a time when a lot of people honour traditions, every holiday season is not going to be the same. Family tragedies happen, as do world tragedies. Sometimes we may feel light-hearted and full of fun and other times we might not. Perhaps this is to be a cosy and/or a more spiritual season where you attend some services or quiet musical events, watch the snow falling down and hang on to your friends, family and neighbours. Ditto for New Year's, when you may want to have a few friends over for dinner and games. Sometimes we just have to roll with it, take it easy, count our blessings and just let the season pass by more quietly. Nothing wrong with that. Another year you may feel jolly, just not this year. That's OK, so don't berate yourself.

Write Miss Lonelyhearts c/o Winnipeg Free Press 1355 Mountain Ave. Wpg R2X 3B6; email lovecoach@hotmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2012 G6

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