Around this time every year, my countrymen and women commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Some people have made considerable effort to recover from these wounds, but others normally break down again when they remember their loved ones. How can one overcome this trauma; plus, does crying help one recover somehow?
What happened in 1994 was indeed a terrible tragedy which has shattered lives of millions of people. It will take an entire new generation to grow up, who may not carry scars of the tragedy. Crying is the natural human reaction to physical or emotional pain. It occurs due to stimulation of the hypothalamic-limbic system of the brain, one which is responsible for emotions. Crying does help one to feel light and there is nothing to feel ashamed about it. Crying produces endorphins in the body, chemicals that make one feel better.
Severe depression/anxiety following a major tragedy (either being affected by it or having witnessed it) is manifested by features clubbed together as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS). These consist of unexplained dryness of mouth, palpitations, sense of fear, joints pain, recurrent night mares or recurrent disturbing memories of the tragedy. Such tragedies include natural ones like earthquakes, floods, or manmade like terrorist attacks or genocide. The intensity of grief and features of PTSS vary among individuals depending on the loss they have suffered, mental makeup and physical and emotional support available.
The lives lost in the tragedy can never be recovered, but the survivors have to move on with their lives. This idea should be fixed in mind first. Keeping oneself busy, helps to divert the mind from the tragedy. Learning new skills or imparting known ones to others is useful in this aspect. Reading good positive literature also helps people strengthen their minds and overcome grief to some extent. Being with nature, helping others in need, also helps to reduce the depression. As per experience of individuals, regular physical exercise, keeps both the mind and body fresh.
Group sessions with other survivors of the tragic event help people to share their sorrow, their anxiety and worries and how they are coping with it. It also makes one realise that there are others suffering like him or are even worse affected than him. Counselling done in groups is useful for people in trying to overcome their loss.
Prayers and or meditation done regularly help to ease the mental agony.
Severe cases need pharmaceutical support in form of anti depressants, tranquilisers or sedatives, depending on the symptoms one experiences.
Dr Rachna Pande is a specialist in internal medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital