“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Grief Front and Center

Grief is on our minds. On our hearts.

I guess I was lucky that the first time I felt grief for the loss of a human, instead of a pet, I was 20-years-old. I was a junior in college and in the midst of having a great time. Then in November 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Along with all kinds of other unfamiliar emotions, I felt grief and I cried. And, yes, I remember exactly where I was and, yes, the memory stuck.

Public Grief

It would be another seven years before I faced a personal grief for the loss of a family member. After that, it felt as though life was only grief of some kind, personal or public. I have posted more than several pieces on grief. Samples include: here, here, here, and here.

So many attempted assassinations and killings of public figures later, public grief has become all too familiar. Remembering is like watching a documentary of your own life fly by, getting faster and faster and faster until it stops in Tucson, Arizona almost a month ago now. How can a month feel so NOW, or years feel so close?

The victims of the University of Texas sniper (1966), Robert Kennedy (1968), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968), the Vietnam war being play out nightly on television, Kent State students (1970), Alabama’s governor George Wallace (1972), Israeli Olympians in Munich (1972), Jim Jones’s cult members’ suicides (1978), John Lennon (1980), and Ronald Reagan assassination attempt (1981).

All kinds of terrorist acts worldwide involving Americans took up the 1980s and 1990s: Beruit (1983), TWA hijacking (1985), Italian Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking and murder of an American (1985), Lockerbie, Scotland, Pan Am flight (1988), World Trade Center garage bombing (1993), Oklahoma City bombing of a Federal building (1995), U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania (1998), the U.S.S. Cole bombing (2000).

Then the 9/11/01 tragedies.

In between, killings at home occupied televisions: Columbine High School students killed (1998), Virginia Tech students killed (2007), Dr. George Tiller ambushed and killed in Wichita (2009), the Ft. Hood, Texas, rampage where a psychiatrist killed 12 and wounded 31 (2009), the Austin, TX, IRS building attacked by man in a small plane (2010), eight employees killed in their Connecticut office by a fellow employee (2010), University of Alabama (Huntsville) faculty members shot by Dr. Amy Bishop (2010).

It won’t stop. It goes faster and faster, until the horrendous events in Tucson stop us cold.

No Stages

A recent Time magazine article asked, How do we cope with grief? And suggested that the answer may be “Good News.”

For three decades, our beliefs about coping with grief have been influenced by Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross’s 1969 On Death and Dying and on her 2005 On Grief and Grieving; in the last decade or so, academia and more scientific data collection has revealed new insights. The findings are the subject of both the Time article and Ruth Davis Konigsberg’s new book, The Truth About Grief.

According to Konigsberg, the new research overturns the five major myths: We grieve in stages; we must express our grief; grief is harder on women than on men; grief never ends; and counseling helps. It may be that these myths have restricted our ability to be as resilient as we can be when confronted with grief – public or private.

Personally, I think a parody of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Potter Stuart’s comment about pornography – knowing it when he sees it – fits my thinking: I won’t attempt to define the kinds of feelings that make up grief, but I know it when I feel it.

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