Besides the shock value of the recent devastating events in Lahaina town, there has been mismanagement by government officials and the glaring fact of lives, homes, and businesses lost. Along that vein, one of the most difficult things to do in our lifetime is to lose someone or something that is truly significant to us. The first thing that our mind does to protect our psyche is to deny, which is the first step as we attempt to process and deal with loss and grief. As defined by psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, we go through five distinct stages after the loss of a loved one: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.
Denial helps us to minimize the intense pain and the shock of loss and helps us to navigate the emotional pain that arises. Due to our new shifted state of reality, denial actually helps to slow us down and limit feeling the overwhelm of the situation and all of our emotions. Pretending that the loss hasn’t occurred also gives us the time to absorb and deal with our current situation.
Anger comes up next in our psyche’s way to deal with intense emotional discomfort, and is a perfect way to channel this energy. Instead of admitting our fear, anger is more acceptable with less judgement of being rejected.
Then anger leads to bargaining because of the need to help alleviate the suffering from the loss you are feeling. Bargaining is a strategy that stems from a feeling of helplessness in order to feel that you have some control over an uncontrollable situation. We focus on what could have been or what could have been done differently to achieve a different outcome.
The second to last stage is sadness and depression. Facing the truth of what’s happened we feel the loss more intensely and it becomes unavoidable. While working through sadness, you may feel the need to pull inward and connect with others less, however until you truly feel the sadness, it will always be in the recesses of your mind.
Finally, you get to acceptance of what is. Although you may still feel the pain and sadness, you are ready to move forward with your life.
Even though we have not suffered the extreme loss that our fellow, Mauians have, on some level we collectively are all going through the five stages of grief. Hence the need to find a reason behind this atrocity to help us make sense of why this destruction occurred and who is ultimately responsible. The blame game is in full effect and unfortunately there is so much conflicting evidence and so many theories of why this occurred that it’s literally difficult to get to the real truth. This experience eerily resembles what happened back on September 11, 2001, which shocked the whole world. This recent tragedy is a painful reminder of that past horrific event. The unnecessary loss of human and animal lives, along with a historic town, is a painful catalyst to illustrate that change is sorely needed. Let us stay in our hearts and be mindful of our neighbors near and far.
Lessons always seem to come from hindsight and so hopefully in the not so the near future the truth will be discovered. The best gauge is to witness the entities who gain to benefit from this horrific event in the years to come.
It is our responsibility to make sure we learn from our past experiences. As time passes, like the five stages of grief, the intensity of the situation ultimately shifts into acceptance, however let us stay vigilant and not forget. Lahaina town and all the beautiful souls that were lost deserve to be remembered. Until that time, know that loss is a part of the cycle of life and as hard as it is to experience, time and your willingness to feel and process your emotions will be your saving grace.