You wake up slowly, in the lingering mist of a dream. For a few seconds, you feel peace. But then you remember. IT actually happened. The intense pain returns with a jolt. Men, women and children who have survived tragedy often speak of those mornings, early in the grieving process, when they forget for a few seconds that their lives are altered forever. When they remember, it’s horrible.
Right now in the Inland Northwest, several families are in the living hell of fresh grief because of terrible car accidents. Five Deer Park residents, four of them teens, died Saturday evening. Their car ran a stop sign. The 17-year-old who hit the car is devastated. On July 7, four members of a Las Vegas family died near a family reunion in Hayden. The Post Falls trucker who hit the car, through no fault of his own, is traumatized.
Grief is exhausting. One bereavement expert compared it to digging ditches 12 hours a day. And if people don’t grieve properly - if they stuff inside their feelings of anger, sadness and despair - our entire community suffers. Unresolved grief can express itself in depression, alcoholism, unemployment, rage, violence and suicide. It can rip families to shreds; the divorce rate for couples who lose a child is higher than average.
Deer Park High School is offering community counseling. The four teens who died in Saturday’s crash attended school there and on July 5, a recent graduate was killed when his car ran off the road. Hospice of Spokane has also offered to do follow-up counseling with the victims’ families.
We’d like to help, too. So we are asking those people in the Inland Northwest who have survived similar tragedies to write letters explaining how you lived through your horror. You are in the best position to help. You’ve been there. One man who lost his teenage daughter several years ago tells other parents who lose children: “You never get over it, but you learn to live around it.”
We will reprint some of the letters, and we will pass the letters on to those involved in the recent tragedies. The 17-year-old boy who survived the Deer Park accident and the Post Falls truck driver are suffering now, too. So anyone who has ever survived an accident in which others were killed, please let us know what got you through the dark days. Write: “Survivors Stories,” The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210-1615.
Your words may help heal families. And the community.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board