What Do You Do When Tragedy Strikes?

dark turbulent threatening stormy cloudsWhat do you do when tragedy strikes?

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about something since March 2, the day that spelled devastation for so many people in Indiana, Kentucky, and Alabama. Life can change in an instant. I doubt that anyone who was affected by the deadly tornadoes woke up that Friday morning thinking they (or someone they love) would be hurt, or die, or lose their home later that day—and it would all take place within a matter of seconds.

We just go about living our lives each day. We can’t constantly be thinking about what may happen, or worrying needlessly, because that’s no way to live a happy, fulfilling, and trusting life. At the same time, when tragedy strikes, we are jolted into the reality that much of what happens to us is beyond our control. Terrible, unexplainable things occur every day—and individual lives are affected and changed—sometimes forever.

I’m not writing this message from a distance. The subject hits very close to my heart.

The home of an immediate family member took a direct hit from a tornado and was destroyed, along with another building, a forest of trees, and countless personal belongings. Gratefully, no one was hurt. That is the blessing! But the devastation is still incomprehensible. My heart goes out to the people who can’t declare that same blessing. Their losses are even more horrifying. I am so sad for my relatives and all who were affected by the destruction.

We cannot escape tragedies and unexpected hardships, but neither can (or should) we live in constant fear. So when something happens, how do we respond? What can we expect?

Initially, we’ll likely experience shock or disbelief; then probably a sense of immobility, desolation, and complete bewilderment—as though we’re in a fog. Too much for the mind to comprehend. Then, possibly anger and/or fear. These (and other emotions) can bounce from one to the other quicker than we can mentally process what’s happening.

At first, you’ll be operating on autopilot so you can do the things that absolutely have to be done. Accept help. You may be someone like me who was raised to do whatever you can for yourself—but this is no time to be proud. Allow people to step in and help you because you can’t do everything yourself.

Don’t make important, irreversible decisions right away. Listen to people you trust because you’re probably not in a state of mind to rationally think things through the way you normally can. Take things one step at a time. All decisions about the future don’t need to be made immediately. Don’t rush.

Find out about grief because at some point, you’ll want (and need) to understand what’s going on inside of you and how to cope.

Life can change in an instant. That’s a fact. Without my faith in God, I would not have had the strength to go on after my husband died—or the courage and determination to keep going when other tragedies and hardships come.

Make sure you have a foundation in place ahead of time, so you can face adversities with the knowledge that you aren’t alone and that you have a source of power greater than yours to carry you through.

Keep reminding yourself of the good things you still have in your life instead of dwelling on all that you have lost. I’m not suggesting that this action comes naturally or is easy, but doing so will help to keep hope alive…

© 2012 Judy Brizendine

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2 Responses to “What Do You Do When Tragedy Strikes?”

  1. Anne Lastman says:

    Judy thanks for your comments. To this I would add a need to retreat is important. Not to hide but to retreat to a place where the memories make the sun rise again the next morning. Immediately following a loss, there is the need to self “hug” or even to gather the important ones (children) and group hug (without being flippant) because there is a need to enter into a space previously untrodden, and there is no right or wrong way of entering therein. In due time a recourse to available resources helps, but in the immediate, that “safe place” which has been built over the years becomes the sanctuary. Grief speaks of loss. of love. of regret. of goodbyes and of never again hellos.

    • admin says:

      Thank you, Anne, for sharing your thoughts. Taking special care of yourself after experiencing a loss is so important. We do need a sanctuary. And we do need to be with those we love and those who love us. You’re right–there are no right or wrong ways–just different ways for each of us. As you mentioned, grief and loss are all bundled up with love, regret, goodbyes, and ‘never again’ hellos, but also smiles, warm thoughts, and happy, treasured memories. Thank you for stopping by and reading the blog, and for taking the time to respond.

      Bless you,