A letter for listening, healing

In installment 10 of the investigation into the Turcot Train Tragedy, I have asked friend Rev. Jan Jorgensen for some advice on dealing with the trauma. Here’s what she writes:

Dear Jack,

I think one of the most healing things that can be done for people who have suffered trauma is to have a compassionate person simply listen to them tell their story. It probably won’t be coherent, most likely it will be painful to speak and painful to listen to — but part of the healing comes from speaking and being heard –
no platitudes, no judgment, just the kind of listening that makes the person feel like they are seen and heard and cared about.

People in fields that deal with loss and trauma may have developed coping stratagems
(Some grief counselors speak of “sterbs” “short term emotional release behaviours”… these could be drinking, running, watching intense movies or playing games that get the adrenaline going, shopping.)

But at the end of the day, the story will want to get out — and it helps if one is “heard”
heard and not misquoted,
heard and not misinterpreted,
heard and not told “It’s time to get on with your life…”

We need to give people time to grieve, to feel all of their emotions as hard as that is…

It doesn’t help anyone to hear: “I know how you feel” or “You’ll have to be brave.”
In the first instance, no one ever knows how another person feels, even if they have similar losses …
The second is useless because the person is probably being the bravest they’ve ever been.

Listening without pushing the traumatized person to speak and act according to the listener’s timetable or agenda is very important.

To help someone who has been traumatized one needs to reach into one’s heart and acknowledge the pain the other is in … and then just listen / and if they can not speak, to simply “be with” that other person.

One follows the cues of the other, if they need to make a joke – fine; if they need to cry – fine; if they are silent – fine.

One thing is absolutely essential in attending to those who are bereaved or traumatized and that is to be real — you can’t pretend compassion, you can’t pretend to listen as you think to yourself, I wish this person would get over it… you can’t drift off to think about how you are going to get home –
people can feel distraction, they can feel authenticity.

This is a time for heart to speak to heart.

I don’t know if this is helpful or not …

But this is what comes to mind on first reflection…

peace, Jack,

with love,


One Response to “A letter for listening, healing”

  1. publicpoetry Says:

    Reblogged this on Lockeblog and commented:

    I am reposting my series on The Turcot Train Tragedy as it approaches the second anniversary of that horrible event. Alas, with no government accountability. Installment 10 is amongst the posts best written.

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