My Turn: Juneau, let's hug

Hi Juneau, it’s been a rough couple weeks for many of us. If the crowd at the Newman boys’ memorial was any indicator, I might estimate there are thousands of us in pain right now. More now that we’ve heard news of Jimmy’s passing as well. For some, it’s the pain of seeing someone die before their time. For some of us, it’s the pain of losing a friend. And it’s a really bad kind of pain.

For the week after I found out about the boat accident, I wrote letters in my head to Casey, eventually writing some on paper.

After the memorial, I couldn’t sleep. I finally got out of bed at 5 a.m., after a 2 a.m. bedtime, because I had pain, sadness and confusion welling up that I needed to deal with. I wrote it all down. Most likely, it is something nobody will ever read. But with every word on the page, the levels went down until I could feel sort of normal again.

That’s my coping mechanism. It always has been. When I am overwhelmed with emotions, I write.

Right now, I am overwhelmed by an additional feeling. One of worry. I know that many of us don’t have a ready-to-go coping mechanism, and that we may be really tempted to quell our sorrows with alcohol. Please, don’t. Please, if you are feeling sorrow or confusion or anger, call a friend or relative and, even if you don’t have words, just hug. Hug your loved ones the way we all wish we could have hugged Casey, Kelly and Jimmy.

I recommend a long, tight, full-body hug. Pull in close, wrap your arms around, lean your head on that shoulder and squeeze. Don’t worry, the ribs can withstand a strong squeeze. If you feel tears, let them out. If you need to cry, do it. If you can talk, say those words. The relief of allowing the weight of those feelings to be shared can be surprising.

And look out for your friends, if you know someone who might be affected by this tragedy, check in. Some people can be too overwhelmed to reach out, so reach out to them.

Let’s get through this with love, Juneau. Let’s hug.

• Griffiths edits the Neighbors section for the Juneau Empire. This was originally written as a staff blog post in response to the death of Jim Brown Jr., 26, early Monday morning. Brown was the sole survivor of a boating accident that killed his friends Casey and Kelly Newman, 26 and 23, on Nov. 23.

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