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Grief and the Air France Crash

I still miss those I loved who are no longer with me but I find I am grateful for having loved them. The gratitude has finally conquered the loss. — Rita Mae Brown

My husband’s chartered flight kept circling around last friday for an hour. Visibility was zero at 4:00 PM. Lightning struck at that very moment amidst the dark gloomy weather surrounding the plane. His co-passengers freaked out and remembered the Air France crash. Fierce thunderstorms, lightning or a catastrophic combination are possible theories of the crash.

My husband is safe in my arms and I can’t help feeling grateful for his safety.

Yet I can’t help feeling sad for the Air France victims and their families.

Air France through a grief counselor told families of passengers on Flight 447 that the jetliner broke apart and they must abandon hope that anyone survived. Tearful relatives received counseling from a team of psychologists and doctors from Air France. It’s great that Air France provided grief counseling. Death due to a sudden or traumatic accident or disaster can raise a number of complex issues for the survivors. The grief process is often very different from an expected or anticipated death. An unexceptionally tragic event like the Air France crash can cause reactions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on the part of the family members and many of these problems compound the grief response.

Miguela Jugueta, a seaman’s wife here in the Philippines is grieving and in denial which is a normal reaction to such a sudden death. ‘I won’t believe he’s dead until I have his body.’ Bong (Jugueta) is a good swimmer. He might have survived,”

She continues to add “I cannot do anything if this is the will of God, but I continue to hope he is still alive.”

I wonder if Air France provided Miguela and her family the resources for grief counseling as well.

Trying to make sense of or understand sudden losses can be difficult. Survivors are left asking “Why?” “Why did this happen?” Events such as the Air France Crash are a sudden, unexplainable loss.

It is human nature to want to answer the question “Why?” yet it may be difficult if not impossible to find an answer. Instead the question “Why?” is more of a plea for meaning and understanding. The thoughts of Rabbi Earl Grollman provide a useful perspective for coping with this difficult question:

Now death has shaken your faith, “Why?” “Why must life be one of sorrow?” “Why?” There are no pat answers. No one completely understands the mystery of death. Even if the question were answered, Would your pain be eased, your loneliness less terrible?

“Why” may be more than a question. It may be an agonizing cry for a heart-breaking loss, an expression of distress, disappointment, bewilderment, alienation, and betrayal. There is no answer that bridges the chasm of irreparable separation. There is no satisfactory response for an unresolvable dilemma. Not all questions have complete answers. Unanswered “Why’s” are part of life. The search may continue but the real question might be “How [do I] pick up the pieces and go on living as meaningful as possible?”

Families may feel unable to fully grieve and reach closure in situations when there is no positive confirmation of the death, when the physical body has not been recovered or if the body is available but the family is unable to view it. This factor can make it difficult to grasp the reality of the death has occurred as survivors continue to hope. Only when the reality is fully grasped can survivors move past the trauma to face the full realization and the pain of grief.

The recovery of two passengers’ bodies and a briefcase containing an Air France Flight 447 ticket gave relief to some family members, many of whom gathered in a hotel in Rio, where they’ve received constant updates about the search.

I hope Air France can provide closure to Miguela and her family by giving them the support they are giving the victim’s families in France such as the memorial service, peer support group and counseling services.

Memory is a form of immortality
Those you remember never die
They continue to walk and talk with you
Their influence is with you always.

~Wilford A. Peterson

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