In this day of live news stories, up to the minute details and hundreds of tragic stories every day, we may find that we become numb to truly understanding the pain and grief each individual directly affected is going through. For the past week or so major media outlets have been covering the tragic event half a world away; a South Korean ferry carrying nearly 500 people, mostly high schoolers, capsized in the frigid ocean. So far, less than 200 survivors have been accounted for, leaving many family and friends with heavy hearts, clinging to hope their children might still be alive.
Tragedies have a tremendous impact on the lives of everyone both directly and indirectly affected. Guilt and anguish often plague survivors, who question why they made it while hundreds of others perished. Frequently the burden weighs heavily on unsuspecting shoulders. The prime minister of South Korea has taken blame for the tragedy and made the decision to step down from his position.
Sometimes grief can take a more serious turn, such as in the case of the survivor and vice principal of the high school, who committed suicide only days after being rescued.
Those who survived the tragedy may experience what is often referred to as “survivor guilt.” When a catastrophe occurs and many lives are lost, guilt and anxiety may surface for those who survived. Without treatment, these feelings may cause long-term PTSD and emotional suffering.
Families and friends who have lost loved ones due to a sudden and traumatic event struggle to cope with the feelings of loss and the inability to say goodbye. In South Korea, the mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles stay together, anxiously clinging to hope that is quickly dwindling. Basic needs become luxuries as their depression takes hold, and their minds are consumed with fear and sadness.
Whether we are the sole survivor of a traumatic event or dealing with the sudden loss of a loved one, the grief we are left with can greatly impact daily life. After a tragedy it can be hard to accept that life has now drastically changed. But, by accepting and processing the trauma and treating the subsequent mental health issues, grief can be manageable and life can feel possible again.