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05 September 2011

Some Thoughts on Grief

Last week, we lost an alumna of our department to a tragic accident. She was fatally shot in a corrections-officer training exercise. Reportedly, the trainer had swapped out a blank-filled training weapon during a break for his standard firearm and neglected to swap them back before returning to the classroom. Mourning is a complicated process in itself, but when people die untimely or preventable deaths, the mourning that those who knew them must endure is further complicated. Case in point, I was struck by the angry sentiment of those who knew this woman well. Instead of primarily expressing sadness over loss, several folks expressed rage at the trainer. Certainly, this man's actions were negligent and are deserving of professional sanctions (and arguably even civil restitution), but he did not intend to kill anyone, and that makes all the difference. My first two emotions on hearing of this accident, and in this order, were sadness for the victim and sympathy for the man who will have to live the rest of his life knowing that he was responsible for prematurely ending that young woman's life.

I hate to even type this terrible cliché, but people do mourn in different ways, and almost all of them are irrational. Irrationality is not necessarily problematic, but when irrational emotions, like fear and vengeance, are directed at others, we risk exacerbating the situations that are bad enough initially.

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