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John James, founder of The Grief Recovery Institute

John W. James

Founder of The Grief Recovery Institute®
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve

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Our Reaction to The Tucson Tragedy – Because We Are the Family of Humankind!

Within a two year span, from February 1, 2003 to December 26, 2004, we used the title “Because We Are the Family of Humankind!” for articles we wrote in response to two tragedies that were felt around the world.

One was the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, which took the lives of the seven crew members on board. The other was the tsunami that rocked SE Asia and claimed more than 230,000 lives.

Of the more than 300 million people living in the US at the time we wrote those articles, only a very small fraction were personally acquainted with any of the people who died in those two momentous events.

Yet, we were all emotionally affected.


Because We Are the Family of Humankind!

And one more time we must go back to that title, because the Tucson shootings have generated a tremendous amount of emotion in all of us. Again, even though a relatively small handful of our 300 million population was personally acquainted with any of the six who died, or the fourteen who were injured, there’s no one we know who was not emotionally affected by this tragedy.

Many people wonder why they were so affected when they didn’t know any of the people involved. They can take some comfort in the explanation, Because We Are the Family of Humankind!. It gives a certain level of understanding, but there is more.

We did an interview on CNN with Anderson Cooper the week President Reagan died. The issue of people who didn’t like President Reagan, but who were nonetheless emotionally affected by his death, came up. Our response: “Whether or not people liked President Reagan, his death is a stimulus that reminds each of us of people who affected our lives, who are no longer alive.“

Mr. Cooper’s reaction, “Oh, is that why ever since President Reagan died, I’ve been thinking a lot about my father who died, and my brother who died?”

Our answer, “Yes!”

The Tucson shootings were a stimulus to all of us, about people and events from our own lives. Our personal grief, triggered by the death of someone famous, or ignited by a natural tragedy like a hurricane or Tsunami, or by the insane actions of a deranged person, is not about celebrity; it’s not about bad weather; and it’s not about politics. Our grief is about us. It may seem self-centered, but it is not.

When we see and hear about a Tucson type tragedy, our brain says, “What do I know about death, about loss, about grief?” And in the process of looking for the answer to that question, it goes over every grief-producing loss event that has affected our lives. That review of our losses and what we felt when they happened is not limited to death; it includes divorces, job or health issues, and other emotional events.

That is not to say that we don’t have feelings for and about the people who died, and the surviving family and friends whose lives are irrevocably altered.

But If you’ve been feeling a lot of sorrow about what happened in Tucson, please understand that is a normal and natural response to the horrific events that transpired. It is also possible that even though you didn’t know any of the people who died, your brain asks, “What might I be feeling if one of those people had been my spouse, or parent or child or friend.”

And that is because we are members of the Family of Humankind!.

There is another issue to be addressed when an “unnatural” tragedy occurs. That is the feelings of “loss of trust” and “loss of safety” that we’re liable to feel when an apparently random act of inconceivable violence occurs.

For most of us, the events of 9/11 triggered incredible senses of the losses of trust and safety, on our own streets in our own communities.

While we can’t ensure that tragedies never happen and that we will always be safe, we must encourage and allow each other to talk openly about our emotions of fear and sadness that are the normal and natural responses to such events.

Because We Are the Family of Humankind!

© 2022 John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute®. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this and other articles please contact The Grief Recovery Institute at info@griefrecoverymethod.com or by phone, 800-334-7606.

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