Most families, "because of culture and religious beliefs and life experiences," tend to affix meaning to deaths they cannot understand, said Minnesota psychologist Boss, author of the 2006 book, "Loss, Trauma and Resilience."
"Whatever meaning you put on death is your meaning and needs to be respected, unless it has to do with self-destruction or retribution," she said. "Some people say it's fate and they put negative spin on it --' He was an evil man that's what he gets' -- and those meanings are horrendous."
Boss said the act of communities coming together will help victims' families heal. Isolation can be the worst "culprit" of those trying to deal with grief, she said.
Some people will need professional counseling, but most people are resilient, she said. "New Yorkers are good at that. They are communicative and express their feelings and all that leads towards resilience."
Most often, people blame themselves after a traumatic death, according to Boss. After 9/11, one woman whose husband died in the World Trade Center blamed the fact she had a newborn for her husband oversleeping. Normally, he was out of the towers by 9 a.m., but that day he slept in.
Months later, she reframed her grief, according to Boss, telling her, "He always set the alarm himself. He wanted another hour with me before he died."
Boss also debunks the over-used notion of "closure."
"That's a myth," said Boss. "Closure is something we do after a business deal. After loss you get to resolution, but the door is not closed. We always remember and hopefully with trauma."
As for Sword, he was "the pinnacle" of all levels of his Princeton community, according to his son-in-law McDonough.
Sword was active in Centurion Ministries, which works to assist wrongfully convicted persons in their defense and appeals processing; sang in a church choir; and was active in the Princeton Alumni Association, among other civic organizations.
He also served as a member of the advisory board of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, which twice responded to Sword.
His family, wife Martha Sullivan Sword and three adult children, Gretchen, Hope and Will, are "holding up," said McDonough, but Hurricane Sandy is still wielding a heavy hand.
"The tragedy is compounded by the difficult situation right now -- no power, electricity or gasoline," he said. "But it also brings everyone together a bit."