“There’s no right or wrong way to grieve” UVA Health grief expert shares advice

Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 4:32 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Traumatic events like these leave the community shaken.

No matter your relation to Devin Chandler, D’Sean Perry, or Lavel Davis Jr., Doctor Kim Penberthy with UVA Health says it is normal to be feeling a level of grief.

“Accepting that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve or encounter this. Giving yourself permission to say you know what, I have to focus on getting enough sleep, remembering to eat and getting back into my routine because that will help in the long run,” Penberthy said.

She says there are a few primary stages to coping with grief, and the first is having a sense of security.

“With the person being apprehended, we have a greater sense of safety immediately, helping ourselves calm down and other people calm physiologically and psychologically,” Penberthy said.

She says that security opens the door to connecting and supporting yourself and others.

The next steps of grief involve developing a sense of efficacy, which could manifest as a desire to do something and help make a change.

“Many people will take this grief and do something positive with it, reforming rules or increasing safety, or developing other programs to support,” she said.

Penberthy says it is normal to feel upset even if you did not share a personal connection with those who lost their lives, as their loss leaves a hole in the community for everyone.

“It’s okay to have the feelings, to feel them, you just keep moving through them. If you get stuck, that’s a time to get some more help. And certainly talk about it with people who will understand,” she said.

She encourages patients to talk openly with their children.

“They’re going to be talking about it, they’re going to be hearing about it, even if you think that’s not the case, and so making sure that you’re touching base with them in a way that’s not too intrusive, and yet demonstrates that you’re there for them,” Penberthy said.

She also says intense feelings of grief can last between four to six weeks as people begin to heal.

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