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In Fond Memory of Gene
By Nadine Winocur, Psy.D.

From our limited human perspective, Gene's death was profoundly premature and untimely.  Gene was a vibrant human being with unlimited value both to those who loved him and to the scientific community, to which he brought a unique combination of knowledge, interests and talents as a science writer, spokesperson, activist, defender of truth, and enthusiast for new energy technology.  Just as we would mourn the death of a child, whose greatest potential had not yet been realized, we mourn the death of Gene, whose potential additional contributions will never be known, and who was just beginning to enjoy the hard-won fruits of his labor.  We feel sad for his family, who has lost a wonderful husband, father and grandfather.  We are reminded of the conversations we shared with Gene, his writings, his reasoning, and his voice.  We remember his presence and feel his absence.

But we are struck not just by Gene's unexpected passing.  We are vicariously traumatized by the horror that Gene faced as he was brutally beaten and must have fought desperately for his life.  Gene experienced a living nightmare.  Have any of us escaped thinking about or imaging this?  I personally have had at least one nightmare that I awoke from, feeling trapped and imperiled.  I have been more vigilant, locking the doors of my house, concerned for my family's safety.  Not that I believe we are targets.  But the world feels a bit less safe than before Gene was murdered.

As a psychologist, I see that when something traumatic happens, something outside the range of normal human experience such as this horrific and senseless event, it is our human condition to try to understand why.  Why, damn it?!!  Of course, there are no satisfying answers.  Not even if or when it is determined who killed him, and "justice" is served.  The fact of Gene's murder will remain incomprehensible to those who cared about him.  No explanation can set things right.

Trauma, by its very nature, disconnects us from ourselves.  It feels unreal -- we just can't believe it.  It causes us to vacillate back and forth between feeling numb, and feeling anguished.  We are literally split over it between hemispheres...cover the left eye fully with one hand, and say to yourself "Gene was murdered", and notice what's there; then, cover the right eye, and say "Gene was murdered", and just notice.   You might find a thought, or a feeling, or a body sensation when looking through one eye, that changes when looking through the other eye.  Often, through one eye we notice that the words just affirm what we know to be true, but through the other eye we notice feelings of grief and anger, or rage. (One therapeutic technique for overcoming the dissociation caused by trauma is actually to do just this, continuing to shift back and forth between eyes identifying what's present until the two perspectives are integrated into one consistent and emotionally balanced experience.  For those whose split doesn't resolve on its own this way, some brief assistance from a trauma specialist can help work it through if desired.) 

A consequence of lingering dissociation can be emotional or physical drain, and getting "triggered" or emotionally imbalanced when confronted with reminders of Gene or his death.  There is, of course, a natural healing process that takes place over time, as long as we give direct attention to emotions that arise, as well as keeping perspective on the matter.  Considering that our human tendency is to avoid painful feelings, we may need to be nudged to face them.  For example, I know there's a painful emotion that wants to surface when I notice an uncomfortable sensation in my chest, and I ask myself ...is it anger? sadness? ...and push myself to express it by screaming silently or crying.  It can be especially healing to express it with caring others, such as a loved one, or in prayer.

Having finally sat myself down the other day and guided myself to dump the feelings I was suppressing at the time, I am reminded, even though I know more feelings may surface, that they are likely to be less and less intense, and that the grieving process reaches an end much more quickly when not inhibiting it.  Like yanking a band-aid off quickly, versus pulling it up slowly and experiencing a long series of "ouches." 

The remaining sadness I feel is balanced by a sense of hope and anticipation of a silver lining.  Some wise person once said, "For every tragedy there will be a miracle of equal magnitude as a blessing that will follow."  I don't know what it will be, but I do know, considering how great a man Gene was, that it will be tremendous. 

Gene died living his passionate ideals to the last day. He has to be content with that--there's nothing to feel sorry for there, only a great deal to admire.  Irrespective of past differences of opinion, if Gene were here now, Steve and I believe he would express the utmost respect and appreciation to all of you, the courageous men and women who have journeyed with him these last 15 years.  He would say that you are the pillars of a new society built on a foundation of caring for humanity.  That the revolutionary research you are conducting provides hope for each human being to achieve free access to resources, and with it, significantly more control over their (and our) lives.  He would urge us all to persevere in our endeavors, and know that he will be celebrating our accomplishments with us.