Memorials Play an Important Role in Trauma Integration
Written by: Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D.
The introductory course for the Certificate in International-Humanitarian Assistance Response Programs (I-HARP)™ will be available in February. The first course in the program offered over distance learning, Supporting Those in Harm’s Way emphasizes the importance of responding to all whose physical safety is at risk during the crisis and all family members left behind. In addition, sponsoring memorials and rituals which honor those whose lives are lost, survivors, and families of the deceased, provides an excellent means of providing long-term support by a company.
Equinor, a long-standing member of the Family Assistance Education & Research Foundation (FAERF) and client of Aviem International, honored their employees and families of all involved in the terrorist tragedy that occurred a decade ago. A total of 40 lives were lost.
On January 16th Equinor held a 10-year commemoration for those employees that lost their lives and for the survivors of the In Amenas terrorist attack in their headquarters in Stavanger, Norway. The company will never forget the tragedy; Equinor’s thoughts will always be with the families, friends, and colleagues of those who lost their lives, and with those who survived and are still impacted by the attack. Ceremonies were also held in Algeria and at the National Memorial Arboretum in the UK.
The Role of Ritual in Healing
The leaders at Equinor understand the power of ritual in helping survivors and the company honor the losses and move toward integration of the tragic event. Interviews with survivors show that participating in memorial celebrations, including planning and attending anniversary meetings allows them to benchmark their healing. Among the other benefits of memorials and periodic anniversary meetings are the relationships that are formed with survivors and company officials that often last a lifetime.
Psychologist and grief expert, David Feldman, Ph.D., points out that rituals are actions that symbolically connect us to something meaningful. They can be comforting, express feelings, bring a sense of closure, or keep an essential part of the past alive. When rituals commemorate a loss, they honor the person who is doing them and the person they've lost.
Occasionally, the question is raised as to whether or not memorials trigger uncomfortable memories associated with a tragedy. This is a legitimate consideration, yet experience has shown that when survivors are included in planning and as many decisions as possible, the gains far outweigh any risks. American Psychiatrist, Alan Manevitz, who supported 9/11 survivors in NYC, including first responders onsite, was asked this question when the memorial project began. Following is one of his comments on the pros and cons:
… for most people it reflects not just the terrible event but how we handled it with courage and resolve, and resilience and that we were unified at that moment in time, that we persevered, and moved forward.
From the Foundation’s perspective, Equinor is to be commended for their actions to commemorate employees and survivors of the tragedy of the In Amenas terrorist attack.
 Equinor ASA (formerly Statoil and StatoilHydro) is a Norwegian state-owned multinational energy company headquartered in Stavanger. It is primarily a petroleum company, operating in 36 countries with additional investments in renewable energy.