Bereavement, Hope on Heels of Flight 302

Mar 16 , 2019
By Eden Sahle

Life is unpredictable. It can change in fractions of a second. It is hard to imagine what the families of the 157 individuals on board the Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed must be going through now. Most of us have to go through a tragedy at some point in our lives, but it is never easy to deal with the loss of a loved one, especially when it happens suddenly in an accident.

Every time I travel by plane, I usually leave with urgency, without putting in the time for proper goodbyes to my family and friends. I take it for granted that I will come back, and they will be there waiting for me.

My father always makes sure to send me away with endless hugs as if we will never see each other again. He has the habit of staying at the airport to wait for the plane to take off before he leaves the airport and begins waiting for my call once I arrive at my destination.

I tell my father that he worries too much, but people his age have a reason for acting the way they do. They have experiences that persuade them that nothing should be taken for granted and that things can change in ways we could have never imagined.

For him, his worry in seeing me flying away stems from an incident in the late 1990s. My mother departed for a visit to Eritrea. But the Ethio-Eritrea war broke out before she came back. She was unable to return, and we did not get to see her for the next 17 years.

We do not know how to live in the moment, knowing that everything is transient, that our lives are in constant change. At times, life can be volatile, accompanied by devastating outcomes like the one that occurred to those on board Flight 302.

The terrible accident reminded me of a similar tragic Ethiopian Airlines incident almost a decade ago. I remember visiting victims of Flight 409, which took off from Beirut to head to Addis Abeba before crashing in the Mediterranean Sea. It was an emotional interview with grieving families who did not get closure long after the accident occurred.

None of the families were prepared for the intensity of the bereavement they suddenly had to live with. They were unable to come to terms with their great loss. A year on, through wrenching agony and moments of incredulity, they had been trying hard to seek closure and adapt to life without their loved ones.

For the families, the change is painful, because the wound of loss never heals completely but gets less severe with time. An intense sense of loss and emotional pain is a natural part of the grieving process. This is part of our existential nature and can help to remind us in moments of hopelessness that life is transient.

Psychologists say recovery from loss involves embracing the new normal and seeing ourselves as survivors that have successfully grieved the loss of loved ones. This often involves deeper gratitude for the intricacy of life and wisdom. The support of social and family structures is crucial to recovery, leading people to be more resilient in the face of bereavement. There is no alternative medication to finding meaning in everyday life through the support of loved ones in times of such crisis.

Part of acclimating to sudden changes involves advancing in other relationships. After a loss, it can be difficult to be interested in regular social occasions. But our time spent with others who are caring and with whom we share common interests can be comforting and enhances the healing process.

Grieving is never a sign of weakness. It indicates the deep relationships we have had with the person we lost. Losing those we value can break us. Nevertheless, the more adaptable we become to change even when it brings sorrow to our lives, the more we tend to quickly endure the hardships life sometimes has to offer.

It is never easy to bounce back or even grow emotionally after experiencing the loss of a loved one. But it is important to be kind to ourselves when we are hit with unprecedented misfortune. We owe it to those who cannot be here to live in harmony and support each other.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 16,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 985]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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