Sunday, April 7, 2013

Grief, Trauma, Anne, and the Foreign Service

It is hard for me to articulate how I am grieving for Anne Smedinghoff, who's death yesterday covered my Facebook feed in black ribbons and shattered my small corner of the Foreign Service community. I knew Anne. I am not her close friend or family member, but I was connected to her in many ways. She was was one of my husband's 151st A-100 cohorts. I met her several times at various 151 get togethers and happy hours. I recall sharing a beer with her and talking about Chicago. I remember when my close friend told us that she was going to meet Anne in Australia for a cross country bike tour. I have heard her name spoken many times by my husband, who was proud to serve alongside such a wonderful person, and remarkable diplomat. I remember her smile.

She made an impression on me despite my only knowing her by association. What a fantastic public affairs representative she must have been. What a loss for this country and its diplomatic mission. What an insensible tragedy for her family.

It is impossible to believe that she died--that she was killed by violence while serving her country. I know many people who are currently serving in AIP, and many more who are going to serve there later this year. We are not prepared to lose people by violence in the Foreign Service, and yet, in the last year, we have lost many. The FS is not armed. Its personnel always travel with skilled military convoys. But there it is--the diplomatic corps is small, but is serving right alongside the military.

Today I recognize in myself symptoms of grief and trauma, and know that I am sharing these feelings with the FS community, and in particular, the 151st A-100 and anyone who had the honor of serving with Anne. It is clear from Secretary Kerry's statement that he is also grieving. We are all in a state of disbelief, shock, and for many of us, the implicit fear for the safety of our loved ones. Anne life was significant, and her death cuts us all close to the heart.,0,389656.story