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Fishermen Wellness: Loss and grief.

Loss Happens; Grief Follows

Greg Marley, LCSW

Clinical Director NAMI Maine


A version of this post was first shared in April of this year, after the devasting loss of the crew of F/V Hayley Ann. Once again, we are deeply saddened by the loss of fishermen that were aboard F/V Emmy Rose.


Maine’s fishing community is no stranger to sudden and traumatic loss. Working on the water year-round in New England’s fickle weather can be tricky at best, and the concern of gear tie-ups, mechanical problems, and boat breaches are a part of the profession. As I write this, a search is underway for the crew of the Emmy Rose, out of Portland. Though our hopes and prayers are for a safe recovery, it brings up the risk of loss.


Update: The search was suspended earlier today.


No one escapes loss; it visits us regularly throughout our lives. The loss of a friendship, a boyfriend or girlfriend, the loss of a beloved pet, or a job. Some might call these little losses, but the grief they trigger can feel, at times, and for some, overwhelming. Think of a teenager and the breakup of their first serious relationship.


When the loss is the death of someone known or loved deeply, the grief is deeper, all-encompassing. It can consume all of your energy and focus.


Grief is the period of time and the conflicting mix of feelings caused by a loss. Though often most associated with sadness and longing, grief can include a wide range of feelings, from anger to despair to even relief. The relief might be part of the grief for death at the end of prolonged suffering. Grief after a death is the body, the mind, and the heart letting go of the person’s presence in your life.


We do not forget, but slowly and painfully we let them go.


When death happens at the natural end of a lifespan, it is often easier, especially if there was time to say goodbye.


A death that is sudden and unexpected makes for more difficult grief; no time to say goodbye and no warning; grieving takes longer. If the death is from an overdose or a suicide, grieving is often long and complicated. There is a wide range of feelings, often including anger and torment of unanswerable questions along the long road to closure.


An additional form of grief in communities such as the fishing one is the grief involved in the reminder of the risk. Although not everyone in the fishing community may know the four crew members on the Emmy Rose, all can imagine the loss. There are periods in high-risk jobs where the risk may be pushed to the back of the mind. However, when there is a loss such as this, we are reminded that there is always an inherent risk involved in everyday work.


There are complicated emotions that accompany this experience as well. When news initially breaks of a boat missing, fear grips every member of the community wondering which boat it was. Once the information is released, there is a shift to relief that it may not have been your loved ones. Then the realization that it was someone else’s loved one, someone you may know. These are normal experiences, but it is complicated as well. Allow yourself time to process these emotions and feelings.


We each grieve in our own way and on our own timeline. It depends on our relationship with the deceased, our past history of loss, and our general mental health and supports.


There are many pathways through grief.

  • Some will grieve alone, greeting the rising sun and talking with the departed.

  • Many need to talk with someone about their feelings and their relationship with the deceased and revisit stories of their life and of their dying.

  • Some may need and seek out the support of a grief group or a grief counselor, especially if their grief interferes with their return to normal functioning.

  • And for some, their loss leads to isolation, depression, drinking, substance use and they cannot find their way back without help.

Support the people in your life who may be grieving, allow them time to grieve, and the support need to grieve in their own way.


Resources:

There is a Go Fund Me set up to support the families of the lost crew members that were aboard the F/V Emmy Rose. You can also send a check to Maine Coast Fishermen's Association. Please write "Emmy Rose" in the note. Together, we persevere.


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An industry-based nonprofit that identifies and fosters ways to restore the fisheries of the Gulf of Maine and sustain Maine's fishing communities for future generations. 

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