Seven Sided Cube has Grief Counselling as adapted to the Earthquake:
China earthquake today EU expresses condolences over victims in China. This stage will take some time to achieve even in the strongest mentally of survivors. At this point ritually is crucial – to grieve again at anniversaries, birthdays, holiday times where the grief returns for a moment and recedes again after the event. The central government may have to dig initially mass graves to handle the dead, however in modern times they will be numbered and DNA tagged so that in time as relatives can give DNA samples they can identify the remains of their own dead and so rebury them in the traditional way and so as to start the acceptance stage of the grief processes.
Stage 1: Numbness.
Grief is the physical, emotional, somatic, spiritual and cognitive response to the actual or threatened loss of a person, place or thing to which we are emotionally attached. Because we are biologically willed to attach, we grieve. (John Bowlby, Father of Attachment Theory).
This quote from Bowlby, sums up the effect of grief in a general setting, however in a disaster where death is everywhere some different thoughts have to be added to the experience of survivors. On this page of Seven Sided Cube, we can in turn look at the stages of grief and see how they might apply to earthquake victims.
At the moment the earthquake happened people’s initial stress reaction is to process the personal threat to oneself. Most are standing around dazed and bewildered at this time not processing any rational thoughts. There were so many aftershocks in the region that some remained in this state for sometime vaguely wondering if after surviving the main quake they would be killed in the next one.
Stage 2: Fatigue.
As they move out of the shocked state they start to become angry, counsellors are often unprepared for this as they find it hard to understand why someone they are trying to assist should shout and blame them for their situation or loss. The survivors need someone to blame, they often talk about God abandoning them, governments not warning them of the danger in time, rescue workers for not saving their loved ones, and the counsellors for trying to understand something the survivor believes is impossible for them to have empathy with, when they were not there and lost no-one.
Stage 3: Yearning.
Stage 4: Relief (Acceptance).
At this time, the survivors just want everything back to the way it was before the disaster. They will convince themselves that dead relatives or friends had somehow survived and will walk around the corner and tell them it was all a big mistake and they are alive after all.
Stage 5: Anger.
Stage 6: Shock.
Survivors are at a loss to know what to do next. How will they rebuild their lives, family and home when they are alone now and feelings of abandonment by their loved ones who died oppresses their thinking. Counsellors have to be very comforting to those at this stage and listen carefully to their grief but to be careful not to let the victim become dependent on the counsellor as a substitute for those lost.
Stage 7: Loneliness.
Stage 8: Anxiety.
- Once they move out of numbness, their cognitive abilities return and they start to realise the enormity of the event that has occurred.
- The may ask rescue workers what has happened even though it seems obvious – but they need a verbal confirmation of the event.
- Here the fear of personal survival may make the survivors overly sensitive to noise, sudden movement and fear of their death may still be imminent.
- This sense of sensitivity can be seen even in areas unaffected by the earthquake as far away as Shanghai.
With only temporary shelter, basic food and water most survivors will be feeling emotionally drained and physically beaten. Their heightened sensitivity means they are constantly scanning the environment for danger and searching for the lost loved ones, even though they know they are now dead.