The families of the victims in Friday's shooting rampage in Geeseytown have a difficult time ahead.
Dealing with the sudden death of a loved one is always difficult, but it is even tougher during the holidays.
"During a time of trauma, it is like it is not real or happening and then the holidays go by the wayside. When you lose someone, it is like it is not real; it is a time of denial. The reality is there, but psychologically and emotionally they can't grasp it all," said Joyce Gray, bereavement coordinator for Home Nursing Agency. "One thing people do with the trauma is it takes them a lot longer. There have to be answers. As the human beings we are, we need to have answers and are searching for that answer."
Gray said next Christmas might be even more difficult for the families affected by Friday's shootings.
"Next Christmas will be more difficult when they will have the time to go back and think of the memories. This year will be the emotional part. Next year they will be still working through the process," Gray said.
The victims' families need a lot of support at this time, she added, noting that there are people that will be there for them.
Ernie Podrasky, access and utilization director of Behavioral Health Services and director of the crisis center at Altoona Regional Health System, agrees.
"They need to get through grieving in a healthy way. They should not reject any support, physical or emotional and willingly accept it to help get through the grieving process," Podrasky said. "They should not bottle up their feelings. They should express and not avoid talking about what happened."
Gray said there is no right or wrong way to grieve. She said there is disbelief and denial, and people also have to deal with the shock.
She added that they also have to have time to make sense of the tragedy in order for it to make sense.
The families' lives are no longer normal following a tragic death.
"After two or three weeks, life moves on and the community moves on - but the reality is there. They say, 'What do I do now?'" Gray said. "What has been normal in their life is not that way any more. They keep waiting for the phone to ring or for that someone to walk in through the door."
Families can do something at the holidays to remember their loved one, such as buying their favorite candle and burning it or hanging a stocking and putting notes about the loved one and pulling them out and reading them to share those memories of the loved one.
It is difficult to lose someone in an incident like what happened on Friday or in an automobile accident, but it is also tough to lose a loved one in a natural way.
"We should not differentiate. None is easier than the other. They are both very difficult to deal with," Podrasky said. "With people who have a terminal illness, it does not have the same impact as sudden death, but there is the stress of watching the dying person. It is very taxing and very difficult. One is not easier than the other. With a sudden death, there is shock and disbelief and not having the chance to say goodbye."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.