The title of this post derives from a well-worn and somewhat corny phrase. Yet it captures a simple overall view about my experience in Seattle working with people involved in “critical incidents” (for background on that term, you can view my site’s critical incident webpage which describes this part of my practice.)
I am dedicating my year end post to this part of my practice, to express my gratitude and deepest respect to the men and women who I met in this work in 2011 (and really, everyone over the last 12 years). They show me what people are like at their best. Many times, that “best” comes forward not just as deeply sympathetic, supportive or honest grief, but also as startling and even anxiety-provoking honesty.
People At Their Best
Even in the midst of expressing the shock and grief from directly witnessing and responding to fear, grief and close proximity to losses of life or health, people can be very honest. They say what’s true about their feelings, the complexity of the situation they face, and their feelings toward those who were imperiled, injured or killed. Within the circle of people who are closest to who was endangered, injured or killed, the honesty is healing, just like the many kind and supportive acts that are performed for families and co-workers.
The humor that people are capable of is also healing and profoundly human; within the immediate group affected by the loss, the humor is always appropriate, without any specific effort to make it so. And that humor, expressed by those further removed from the most immediate group, is either less meaningful, or worse. It’s often put forward by those who thoughtlessly try to make themselves feel better.
To those who suffered and lost, thank you for letting me “in”, and teaching me again and again what’s best in the human spirit. After I left you that day, I believe you continued to develop and respect the grief process that causes us to grow, mature and appreciate the life and health we have.