Effective Leadership Article

Dealing With Grief: Terrorism Issue (EXCLUSIVE)

Image of the Swayambhunath world peace monument.

34 killed, 170 injured in Brussels… so far. But it’s not only these reported numbers of lives affected by the recent terrorist attacks.

Picture of people paying tribute to those who lost their lifes due to terrorism by laying flowers in the street.

Terrorist attacks are one of the most intense ripple effects of grief that could occur because it doesn’t only affect the people with physical wounds, it affects the entire country. Safety, security, peace, joy, connection – these things are all robbed from citizens and in an instant, grief hits every heart. We know grief occurs when there’s a death, but that’s not where it ends. Grief occurs when we expect things to be different, better or more and it doesn’t happen that way.

We hear about the terrorist attacks around the world, and for a few days media coverage keeps the event in our living rooms, on our phones, and in our faces. But what happens when the “hype” is over? Sadly, most of us forget about those killed, injured, or the lives affected, but the reality is the grief (or the “scars” of grief) never leave.

Grief affects more than our emotions. There are physical and psychological side effects caused by grief that are often suppressed, masked or ignored. Although the reactions we experience are natural, we typically don’t know how to process what’s happened and more often than not, we also lack the support of family, friends and peers who are guarded by their personal beliefs on grief.

What Experts Are Saying About Grief

We can’t ignore the facts. Huffington Post recently shared a great article on how our bodies process grief. In it you learn, after the death of a loved one, our risk of heart attack is drastically increased. Our brains are also affected creating a chemical deficiency that makes it hard to focus, concentrate or produce memories.

Here are 3 simple ways to help those around you who may be grieving a loss.

  1. Be present – it sounds simple, but this is often missed. Don’t shy away from opportunities to help the person or family who has experienced a loss. In the first month, there are many ways to offer a helping hand with household responsibilities or providing basic necessities. Usually, people create their own awkwardness when acknowledging someone else’s loss. But if a friend, work colleague or someone in our community experiences a loss, we must put our personal issues to the side and be present for those in need.
  2. At work, employers – offer flexibility. Give your employee(s) time to process their loss. I know 99.999999% of companies are numbers driven, but who produces those numbers? Your people! And if your employees are suffering, the business will suffer.

NOTE: One example of flexibility is to offer days off or work from home hours/days in the first few weeks. This gives them the time and privacy to process the first rocky emotions and begin their healing journey.

  1. Leave your expectations at the door – Grief is hard work and it’s important to not impose your beliefs on the grieved. Each loss is as unique as the person and holds significant emotional weight because of the personal relationship. Honour each loss by eliminating judgement and expectations.

These tips barely scratch the surface. There are many ways to help people and families affected by today’s terrorist attacks. Provide basic necessities, give your time not only resources, be a shoulder or listen ear, and when in doubt, ask exactly what they need.


About the author

Karen Millsap

Karen Millsap

Expert with more than 10,000 hours of experience in consulting professionals on stress and grief in the workplace & guiding them to practical empathy.