JANUARY 28 was the 30th anniversary of the Challenger Space Shuttle tragedy killing six astronauts and an elementary school teacher. Perhaps you were one of those who witnessed it from the ground near Cape Canaveral or you were one of the students who watched on a nationally televised broadcast. In 2003 seven astronauts died when “Columbia” disintegrated upon reentry. Similar to 9/11, these sudden, traumatic disasters affected not only our nation but people all over the world. After the shock, the disbelief, the screams, the tears, the stories, the photos, the funerals, the memorials, the public grief becomes an experience distanced by normal living. However, for any friend or family member who knew one of the victims the yearly anniversary would be “an event that occurred just recently” according to Christa McCauliffe’s husband interviewed the other day. The passage of time doesn’t necessarily lessen the sadness and missing of someone who we loved after his/her death.
Even acute grief after sudden, traumatic deaths changes. It may become less intense. The intervals between grief experiences may be lengthier. The normal reactions of shock, anger, loneliness, and fear hopefully will dissipate with healing. But the missing and the sadness may continue to be triggered at times for the rest of your life. That’s normal grief.