UConn homicide shows how athletes cope with loss

Grief, bereavement and mourning are terms that define the intense feeling of sorrow over the loss of a beloved person. While these sentiments are apparent in many situations, the loss of a favorite athlete or performer seems to attract great attention.

Two weeks ago, tragedy struck the University of Connecticut football team when Jasper Howard was murdered. The response to this event by players, fans and opposing teams is what makes this situation remarkable.

In 1969, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described the five stages of grief:

• Denial
• Anger
• Bargaining
• Depression
• Acceptance

Every individual works through these stages at a different pace and uses a variety of mechanisms to deal with each. Athletes tend to revert to what they know best by immersing themselves in athletic competition while dealing with their loss.
Two goals of grieving involve finding a way to cope with loss and living on in the face of that loss. Sports are a very physical and instrumental way of coping for many people. Some prefer other outward signs such as dedication to a cause, starting a charitable foundation or even wearing a tattoo.

“Grieving helps meet the challenge of resuming life in the face of loss; we must respect the different ways people cope with loss,” said Dr. Kenneth J. Doka, a professor at the College of New Rochelle and consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America. Death of a teammate is no different than any other death in the workplace. It must be recognized and all involved should be supportive in continuing on.

Jasper Howard’s death has brought so many people together to mourn and hopefully work together to stop the senseless violence that ended his life too soon.

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