Grief is a funny thing. Although you can anticipate grief at times, you never really know when a wave of grief will hit. The April 6, 2018 Humboldt Saskatchewan bus/truck collision has no doubt caused a great deal of grief, and not just for those who lost a loved one or had a loved one injured in this crash, but also for many other people who were reminded of previous deaths due to avoidable collisions.
My family is among them. My brother and sister-in-law lost their 18 year old son when the driver of a large truck did not stop at a stop sign. Like the Humboldt bus/truck tragedy, he was travelling on a highway that crossed another highway. In broad daylight and with no obstructing trees, he entered the intersection at full speed, first hitting a car and then hitting my nephew who had a summer job working for the county cleaning roadsides. Thankfully, the driver of the car was going east to Saskatchewan and had no passengers, and so no one was killed or badly injured in the car. My nephew was able to push his co-worker partly out of the way but she was still badly injured. Thankfully, she survived.
Jordan had just finished his first year at the University of Alberta. He was in Sciences as he wanted to become a doctor, and he was an honors student. He was a wonderful, kind, decent young man.
I know how terrible the grief was at the time for my brother and his wife, and their one remaining son. I shared that grief, but it was not even close to what they must have felt. Severe grief can last for a long time, often up to two years but longer for some. After that, anniversaries, memories, and events can easily spike grief. It has been nearly 5 years since that senseless stupid accident, and I can’t speak for the rest of the family, but I am grieving again. Some wise patient of mine once told me that grief is like a wound with a scab on it; if the scab is picked off then healing needs to start again to form another scab.
This is National Hospice Palliative Care week, with the aim this year of encouraging a more compassionate Canada. The wonderful response of Canadians (and many other people outside of Canada) to the Humboldt bus/truck tragedy clearly shows there are many compassionate Canadians and other compassionate people around the world. But please consider that significant grief, the grief you feel when a loved one dies, lasts for a long time and can be easily spiked. This would be a very good time to ask your family and friends who have grieved if they are ok now, and to give them a hug and tell them that you care about them and that you remember the deceased person.
This would also be a very good time to talk to your family members and friends who have poor driving habits to improve them or another senseless tragedy could happen. You know the ones who tail gate, speed for fun or because they leave late for work, do not signal for turns, do not stop at stop signs, get angry and have road rage when driving, drive distracted, or have developed poor vision or another disability that makes driving unsafe. You could be saving yourself and many others a lot of grief.
Donna Wilson, RN, is the Chair of the Alberta Hospice Palliative Care Association Board and a nursing professor at the University of Alberta.