In the communities ravaged by tornadoes in recent days in Kentucky and Indiana try to pick up the pieces of their lives, many are grieving for loved ones lost forever in the storms.
Recent snowfall is making cleanup difficult in West Liberty, KY, and Henryville, IN, the latter of which was in the path of two tornadoes hit the town, including an EF-4 twister, with winds of up to 200 mph. The tornado outbreak began Friday and extended into the weekend, affecting millions of people from Indiana to Georgia. At least 39 are dead – 21 in Kentucky, 13 in Indiana, three in Ohio and one in Alabama. Georgia also reported a storm-related death. One particularly sad story involved a toddler who survived a tornado in New Pekin, IN, and was found alive in a field, but the 14-month-old girl died of her injuries later on Sunday. Her mother, father and two siblings also were killed.
For those mourning a loss, Allison Daily, author of Out of the Canyon, A True Story of Loss and Love, bereavement counselor at Aspen Valley Hospital, and Co-Director of Pathfinder Angels, a non-profit for cancer patients, stresses that there is no correct way to grieve, there is no road map.
“We may start at ‘point A’ with the loss, the shock, the denial– but where that grief goes and how many directions it takes is an enigma. It depends on who we are, how close we were to the one we lost, how deeply we allow ourselves to feel … and on and on. I also believe that where we end, if there is such a thing as an ending to grief, is a personal decision.
“If you are grieving someone, my encouragement to you would be to give yourself the freedom and the grace to be exactly where you are. Don’t rush through grief as I did in the beginning. Realize that you have lost someone you love deeply and miss terribly. If you need help, get it. The rest of the world moves on and at times that feels unfair. As a close friend of mine said the other day, ‘When my baby girl died I looked around at people pumping gas, buying groceries, laughing in the street and I thought, My baby is dead! How can you be happy? How can you be okay? Because I am NOT okay! Friends may go on in their lives but they will not need the same time as you do to grieve. It is your job to nurture and protect your need to grieve. You can’t get mad at others for going on, you just have to figure out what you need.
Related: Grief and Joy
“For me, grief is free form. It is like one of those sand paintings that changes shape and form every minute. It can be scary and ugly and it can also be beautiful. First and foremost, it is yours. As you go through it, see if you can use it to grow and love yourself deeper. Think of that process as a way to honor the one who is gone. Give yourself the love they would want to have given you. In loving yourself, you are loving them.”
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