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Colleagues can expect rough emotional time
By John Carpenter | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 9:57 PM

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Originally published Jan. 10, 1993

Life, at least in the near future, won't be easy for the fellow workers of the seven victims of Friday night's murders in Palatine, experts say.

Like combat veterans who have lost close friends, they can expect emotional difficulties possibly ranging from crying spells and mild depression to more debilitating troubles like phobias and flashbacks.

While experts caution against overreaction when dealing with grief among adolescents, they say adults must watch carefully for the affects of trauma that may require treatment.

Those closest to the victims, they say, are most susceptible to problems.

"They will go through a fairly intense grieving process that would last at least 30 to 35 days," said Bennett Leventhal, an expert in child and adolescent psychology at the University of Chicago. "They are very likely to have general anxiety and fear of similar circumstances, fears about going out alone or that people are following them."

In the most severe cases, Leventhal said, flashbacks - in this case vivid and frightening visions of something like the scene of the crime - can be triggered by almost anything and can lead to fears as real as if they were actually happening.

In such cases, he said, professional treatment will be very important.

But Leventhal and others noted that parents, for example, should not overreact to the point that they create more stress or confusion for their children.

"Parental intuition can't be underestimated," said Nancy Miller, an adolescent psychologist who specializes in dealing with sudden death and bereavement. She was one of the counselors called in to help Sycamore students who were involved in a bizarre fatal car crash at O'Hare International Airport last year.

"Parents know their children best," Miller said "They will know if their child is going over the edge emotionally."

Bruce Coriley, executive director of Conley Outreach Community Services, where Miller works, said parents should not be afraid of hysteria or uncontrolled crying. These are normal parts of the grieving process and typically will run themselves out, he said.

"One of the first things I tell people is listen, don't preach," Conley said. "Let your kids pour out. If you are lucky enough to have a kid who will talk about what they are feeling, don't keep interrupting them or telling them what to think."