Foundation, reminding you that a fully-integrated approach for assisting survivors of
traumatic loss involves a balance of head and heart. Wednesday Wisdom is written
and copyrighted by Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D. and distributed by the Family
Assistance Education & Research Foundation Inc., fafonline.org. Reprint is available
with written permission from the Foundation.
Emotional Bonding is Critical to Transformation from
Trauma: Moving from 'victim' to 'survivor'
"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among
you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how
–Albert Schweitzer, German Theologian 1875-1965
"When my brother died in the traffic accident, our whole family wanted to travel to the
funeral to be with his wife and children. But because funds were limited, we did not
get to go. Two years later, when my son died in an aviation accident, our entire family
traveled to the city where he lived, so that we could support his wife and each other.
The airline paid for our flights, hotel rooms, and even the reception following the
funeral. Being allowed to grieve together as a family meant the world to us. We were
grateful to the airline for making this happen.”
–Mother of a businessman who died in an airline disaster
In the not too distant past, news of a tragedy where multiple people were intentionally
murdered and large numbers injured, was infrequent. But today, there are weekly
accounts of mass shootings and deliberate acts of cruelty in all parts of the world.
Images of human faces stricken with terror and grief appear in the media on a daily,
and often hourly basis. The above quote from a mother who is a long-term supporter
of the Foundation's models for supporting survivors of traumatic losses sums up how
significant an organization's assistance can be to families. While the initial phase of a
crisis leaves all involved feeling powerless, the moment power and control are
restored, a victim becomes a survivor.
We recognize that random shootings and other brutal attacks on the public most often
do not involve a business organization whose plan for survivor assistance comes into
play. However, many businesses today are responding to victims and families, even
when there is no legal reason for doing so. Once it is known that a company's
personnel or customers are involved, many activate their plans for family assistance
to help quickly restore a sense of control for victims.
Physical and Emotional Safety go Hand-in-Hand
No one can question the critical roles that first responders and those who are
responsible for life safety play in an emergency. Saving lives must happen before any
other services come into the discussion. But once out of harm's way, the next need
for survivors is to feel emotionally safe and connected to others. As much as first
responders might like to provide additional assistance, they, as well as other agency
personnel, often lack the time and resources that would allow them to do all they
might wish to in helping others.
When business organizations activate their plans for assisting victims and their
families, the perfect pairing occurs. Those responsible for physical safety put the
survivors on the road to recovery and business organizations further help restore a
sense of control by offering accommodations, flights, connections with family, and
other services needed. Emotional needs are met the moment helpless individuals
realize that a company cares about them and their families and the suffering that
has been imposed on them, regardless of the cause.
“The measure of a man is what he does with power."
–Plato, Greek Philosopher 427 BC-347 BC
While there are many examples where companies are providing family assistance,
though they are not legally required to, the shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood
Airport in early 2017, offers an excellent example. Passengers who were in harm’s
way, i.e., having been shot, injured, and murdered, along with many who witnessed
the heinous acts, were supported by the airline companies the same way they would
be in situations where legislation would dictate. Interviews with passengers showed
that they were provided with food, water, logistical support such as flights, hotels,
and alternate transportation for those who chose not to fly. And where death and
injuries occurred, the survivors were assigned Care Team members.
While local authorities, including first responders, and other agency responders
worked tirelessly to secure the scene and restore physical safety, it is encouraging
to see how many other businesses did their part. For the companies, who chose to
logistically and emotionally support their customers and employees, there is no way
to quantify the impact that these acts of kindness will have on the healing of those
they assisted for years to come.
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