Loss and living


Loss and living


Friday, November 01, 2019

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We have shed so many tears already this year. The latest case to stir emotions is the terrifying incident which occurred on Monday afternoon at Clan Carthy Primary School in Kingston, when an unattended garbage truck got out of control injured an adult and crushed a seven-year old student to death.

The news reports in the past few days have shown the grieving parents, family and classmates of little Benjamin Bair. The Ministry of Education has deployed its grief counselling team to the school to offer whatever support is necessary to all who have been affected. Government officials have also announced the intention to revise policies to institute a higher level of safety for our children at school in particular when it comes to access by large vehicles which pose an even greater threat to children, many of whom are not even the height of the truck tyre.

I spoke with a friend who is a guidance counsellor at a nearby school and asked how do we help children to deal with grief? When they are so young, do they even understand what has happened? How do we explain and help them to make sense of tragedies such as this? He said the main thing is to allow the children to express themselves, whether by drawing a picture, writing a poem or a letter, and let them tell you how they feel. Give them the chance to talk about the situation when they feel ready to do so. Encourage and comfort them and allow them to take the time needed to work through the situation in their own time.

Everybody deals with grief in different ways. The five stages of grief were defined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. For some of us, it is a long journey through those stages, and it can take years to truly accept a loss. Another friend said the worst thing for her was to have people tell her that it was time to move on from a loss. “For them, they were ready, but I know how I feel.”

For my counsellor friend, he says as difficult as it is to see the children crying and saddened by events, it is even harder for him when he comes across youngsters who have been through so much that they are unphased by violence and tragedy. He has taught children who casually relate tales of which family member has been killed or seriously injured in the same way they would tell him what they had for lunch. He wonders how they will fare out later in life. How will we, as a wider society, deal with the hurts and scars of past trauma?

Losing limbs

The other news that caught my attention this week was loss of a different kind. In an article by Desmond Allen in this paper's Monday edition, Dr Dalip Ragoobirsingh, director of The UWI Diabetes Education Programme, suggested that anecdotal evidence says there is one amputation per 1,500 diabetic patients in Jamaica and that the Caribbean is the “amputation capital of the world”.

We take the effects of diabetes far too lightly. We mix the sweet drinks and we eat the starchy foods that put us at risk and think that all is well. We literally want to have our cake and eat it too and not put on the weight. Professor Errol Morrison and the Diabetes Association of Jamaica have done a vast amount of work in highlighting the risks of this disease, but “sugar” continues to pose challenges for our people and our health system. I recommend to those with diabetes to get a copy of Monday Jamaica Observer and make note of the foot care tips that were published there. Knowledge is power. Take the power into your hands and save your feet too.

There has been a push for Jamaicans to embrace a healthy lifestyle as our levels of obesity grow like the numbers on the scale. Some people are getting the message, and it is good to see Jamaicans getting their exercise. If you wake early in the morning, all across the island, you will find people on the roads walking, jogging, and running to give themselves a chance for a healthier life.

An unfortunate situation is that exercise seekers are now having to focus on avoiding the two-footed tief dem who have been plaguing them. Still, they know that getting out there is a worthwhile endeavour and we congratulate them and encourage others to join them.

Next on the agenda is to take control of what goes on your fork. It can be rough to eat healthy when vegetables and fruits are so expensive. I must admit that I have had to shut mi eye and pass the lettuce and tomato when I hear the prices, but there are other choices that fit the pocket book. In any case, doctor bill is more expensive in the long run. Mek wi try save the limbs and lose the pounds instead.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@gmail.com

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