I am so sorry you had to go this way.
November 16, 2010 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Advice and tips for dealing with what, for me, was a jarring event (trigger: sorry animal lovers).

Maybe you think I am silly or foolish or oversensitive, but I watched a grown buck get hit by a box truck this morning on my commute and I am having a lot of trouble getting through my day. I have to keep on at work, etc. so what do people do to keep themselves from bursting into tears over something like this? Any strategies, please, and ones that are ideally work friendly (break or lunch friendly, etc.)?
posted by oflinkey to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're able to, put on some headphones and listen to some much-loved, positive, upbeat music. A lot of it. Even better, bring said music on your ipod/discman/zune/whatever and go for a brisk walk during your break.

I know it sounds stupid, but I've found it to be really helpful when I sink into a destructive or negative thought pattern.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:15 AM on November 16, 2010

I think you need to take 15 minutes and find a place where you can actually cry it out alone. Then invent some kind of ritual to respect the spirit of the buck...like light incense when you get home, or pour out a drink, anything, but something you believe in. Something small for you to ritualize the letting go.
posted by spicynuts at 9:16 AM on November 16, 2010 [8 favorites]

Also: You're not foolish or oversensitive. At all.

I saw a stray cat get hit by a car a few weeks ago, and I went home and cried hysterically about it for several minutes before I could get it together enough to call 311.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:16 AM on November 16, 2010

Echoing Narrative -- I'd be feeling the same way you do. Just find a place where you can get it out of your system a bit.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 9:22 AM on November 16, 2010

Thank God for the sweet and compassionate heart you have.

Say a prayer for the driver who probably feels awful about it also.
posted by AuntieRuth at 9:23 AM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

Aw, oflinkey... I'm sorry you had to experience that. And you are in NO way overreacting. Nthing everyone else - hole up in a conference room and get it all out. But bring in some ice cubes and water and paper towels so you can fix up your face afterward.
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:24 AM on November 16, 2010

Not oversensitive at all. There's a family of feral cats in the woods by my work, and in three years we've had three dead on our road. The last one was a kitten no more than 8 weeks old. I bury 'em, and have a little cry. Burying helps with closure.

My boss yelled at me on the last one, why bother? I told him to fuck off, I wasn't going to look at a decomposing/scavenged cat for the next month. He backed off.
posted by notsnot at 9:25 AM on November 16, 2010

I saw a kitten get hit in August and I still think about it and tear up, so don't think that there's anything wrong with being upset by what you saw.

For me, I have to get it out. I can only avoid crying for so long and then I risk it coming out at a totally inappropriate time. I go somewhere private, sometimes I sit in my car, and I cry it out. Then I go back and get on with my day. Then I sometimes go home and cry some more.
posted by crankylex at 9:32 AM on November 16, 2010

I had a very similar experience a few months ago. I spent the entire morning fighting tears and pretty much at the bottom of the depression barrel, and I cried just about every morning for a long time after that when I drove past the place it happened. I had a very difficult time with it, and I still don't like to think about it. I was convinced that I would never get over it unless I got a job somewhere else.*

What helped me the most was a new family of geese that soon took up residence in the field outside my office building. I got to see them every day from the time they were tiny geese til they were full grown. While I was very sad (traumatized, actually) for having witnessed the loss, I took some solace in seeing new life making its way in the world. Life does go on. I need to think about it that way.

*I did eventually change the route of my morning commute, only because traffic had gotten bad and I needed a change, but looking back, I see that I thought about it far less after I stopped driving that way. I know this won't help you TODAY, but if you can change your route, it might help if the trauma stays with you.
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:34 AM on November 16, 2010

As a someone who finds faith hard to swallow a few things have helped me deal with situations like this.

I cant seem to find the video, but I was shown a video of a Buddhist monk sitting and talking about impermanence. As he sits on the chair he describes how if he continues to sit he will die. After a short time his body will no longer look like him, and after a while he will be nothing but dust. Everything follows this cycle, it does not matter who or what you are.

FWIW excepting the concept of death seems to help me get through the emotional aspects of it. I hope this helps, and I know that seeing things like that can really put a damper on your day.
posted by Felex at 9:36 AM on November 16, 2010

Aww, that sucks, oflinkey. You might console yourself with the idea that the deer probably died instantly, without a lot of pain, which is about as good a death as one can hope for, I guess. Consider that in many areas, deer are so overpopulated that they die of starvation instead - a much more difficult ending.

Also, if you can, goof off for a while and look at your favorite funny web site. Memail me if you want a list of my current faves.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:44 AM on November 16, 2010

I deal with particularly unpleasant scenarios on a regular basis. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I don't. Whatever emotional response you have, it's your response, and it's not invalid to have it. It's yours and it's valid.

Although this next part may not help with the immediate processing, just so you know: even though the kind of scenario you describe was disturbing and probably quite gruesome for you to witness does not mean it was representative of the amount of fear or pain the animal experienced when it occurred.

If the buck was killed on impact (which is often the case when such a large vehicle is involved), the deer probably did not have time to comprehend what occurred: the lethal aspect of the accident probably took place faster than the deer's nervous system and brain could process it. Moreover, as far as we know--though it's not exactly the easiest hypothesis to test--most animals don't seem to have the ability to contemplate their own mortality and therefore it's less likely that they fear the end of their own existence. Even right before the crash, the buck was probably more startled (think of a loud noise going off behind you and 'jumping' in response--you're startled and jumping before it's consciously registered that you are feeling startled/afraid) than it was experiencing any sense of mortal terror that you or I might have when considering the prospect of being part of a life-threatening incident. We know that animals do fear pain and discomfort and if they have prior experience with events that cause pain and discomfort or being overwhelmed, they will often fear situations that in some way evoke those prior experiences.

Even if it was not instantly fatal, like us, many animals also have 'shock' and 'sympathetic' responses to overwhelming and even lethal stressors. If these responses are similar to those in humans (and many of the more basic responses do seem to be similar), catastrophic injuries often don't register immediately, and a significant amount of the pain response is dulled temporarily.

tl; dr: It's all right to have whatever feelings you have. Though we can't conclusively prove this, it was probably more disturbing and painful for you to witness than for the deer to experience, and it is no longer in any pain or fear.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 9:54 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is a little off the wall, but play Tetris. Read it.
posted by adipocere at 10:19 AM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I find it helps if I apologize. I'm not at fault, and I'm totally uncertain regarding things being receptive after death, but when I see careless destruction of life, current or after the fact, the only thing I can do is close my eyes & tell the memory in my head and the universe at large how sorry I am that it happened. Basically, I recognize the loss. Then I move on.
posted by Ys at 10:19 AM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

Seconding (nthing) the advice to have a brief private cry asap. Otherwise, the emotion may spill out at a terrible time, work wise. If you're in retail or other customer facing job, see if there is anyone who can cover you for 20 min to a half hour. You may not need that much time, but better to overestimate.

Before your cry, and after, make sure you drink a big glass of water, and have the healthiest snack you can. Do some breathing exercises, and as others said, consider the nature of impermanence and the fact that the bulk of the worlds activity is outside your control.

If we hide from the sad or scary things of the world, we miss much of the joy. And the sad and scary bits manage to find us anyway.

Plan something that brings you joy - for tonight, or tomorrow, or this weekend.
posted by bilabial at 11:02 AM on November 16, 2010

I think you're wonderful, and I'm so sorry that such a gentle soul such as yours had to witness this creature's death. I work in veterinary medicine, and the hardest patients to euthanize were always the wildlife, they had nobody but me to advocate for them.

Perhaps a good cry in the car would let some of the anxious sadness out. In a few weeks, you may be able to reflect on the fact that this animal had a good life, was probably on his way to get a little nookie (it is rutting season) and died a very quick death... but until then just honor the feelings you have. I'll be keeping good thoughts for you today.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 11:26 AM on November 16, 2010

Just wanted to say that you are not foolish or oversensitive. I remember when I was around 16 I was in the car with my mom and she was driving, and we hit a deer that surprised her. I got mad at her which was really unfair, but I was a stupid 16 kid (and have since apologized of course!), but I was really upset and she was super upset. Of course, maybe it's different if you do it yourself but regardless I think it is upsetting and it's normal to be upset by seeing a living thing die. I mean, this is one of the things that distinguishes sociopaths from healthy people no? So give yourself a break, you are normal and it's cool that you're upset. Go with it and let yourself feel said if you need to. I think that's the only advice I can give you. Maybe find someone you trust to spill your feelings to. And hopefully some of the responses here have helped you!
posted by dubitable at 1:15 PM on November 16, 2010

cool that you're upset. Go with it and let yourself feel said if you need to.

should be

cool if you need to be upset. Go with it and let yourself feel sad if you need to.
posted by dubitable at 1:17 PM on November 16, 2010

Something that worked for me recently: Take a deep breath and try and visualize places where you were safe and happy: Your grandmother's kitchen, a vacation to Hawaii, a nice day in the park with your family. You get the idea. Any time the thought of the buck creeps into your mind start visualizing the safe and happy places until the thought passes.

I heard a doctor on NPR say that this type of visualization will actually lower your blood pressure and fight off some effects of stress.
posted by bananafish at 2:06 PM on November 16, 2010

I do the exact same thing as Ys. Whenever I see an animal that has been hit, I say a little prayer for its soul and apologize for that to have happened. I can't bear to see dead animals on the road. It especially tears me up to see dead turtles on the road, for some reason...

Mourn and pray for the precious animal soul.
posted by foxhat10 at 2:35 PM on November 16, 2010

I would be very upset about this, too. You will need to cry. I hit a raccoon awhile ago and cried about it quite a bit - out of guilt, I can still barely stand to even glance at a toy stuffed animal raccoon, let alone the real thing.

A donation to a wildlife rescue or nature society might help to honor the memory of the buck.
posted by analog at 3:08 PM on November 16, 2010

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