Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Death On The Job

January 23, 1995

A man lost his life in a tragic mining accident and I was asked to address his co-workers before they returned to work at the job site. This is what I told them.

I don't know why certain things happen. Why it was Tracy and not you, or why it had to be anybody at all - questions you must have asked yourself a thousand times.

The protective shield of your invulnerability has been pierced. You are mortal. I am mortal. Such things happen. You can no longer go near the mountain with such innocence. This is not a just world and things can happen to good and just people for no apparent reason.

Despite every precaution you or your company can take, there is no hiding the fact, this is a dangerous job. You have talents and skills. Presumably you are well paid and would have difficulty replacing this job with a better one. The company and the supervisory team show care and concern for your well-being. Can you go near the mountain and still be the same?

No. The tragic accident has made you different. You approach the mountain with new respect and with fear. But for the grace of God, you are here and not in a grave. Your families know that too. They too have to live with fear and uncertainty. Your loved ones will have an edge of anxiety as you leave for work each day and be grateful when you return home each night safely.

This accident forces each of you to step back and reevaluate who you are, what you value and if you are doing the right things with your life. Do you live your life with more love? Do you cherish those who love you? Are you the husband you want to be? Are you the father you want to be? If you were called home to God, would you be at peace with yourself? Appreciate what you have and let people know you care. If the accident makes you better men, then it will have had a painful purpose.

From my experience, let me tell you how to best deal with trauma, the trauma of death - the trauma of having to face the mountain.


Tell your story of how this accident affected you.

Tell about your feelings when you saw the accident site for the first time, and what you went through.

Talk about Tracy and his life and how you miss him. Talk about his family.

Talk about your anger and fear. Talk about feelings of guilt and blame.

Ask any unanswered questions. Shed tears. Let your emotions come through. Don't be ashamed of them. They will heal you. Tell your story over and over again to anyone who asks. And if they don't ask, tell them anyway.

Talk to a minister, your wife, your children, a counselor, to each other, to a good friend. Tell how this accident changed you.

When you go near the mountain you'll be jumpy. Any rock movement at all will scare you. Scenes of what happened or what could happen will flash through your mind. You'll have thoughts you don't want. Your sleep won't be as sound. You'll be cautious, perhaps too cautious. Your job will be more stressful.

Whatever you are going through now is normal. Someday, in a month or two or six, you'll be back to a level that you can live with. But not too comfortable - for you work in the face of danger and are in the hand of God. You know that now. Hopefully that knowledge will make you better men.