How to Respond when Tragedy Strikes

When terrible tragedy strikes the lives of those we love, we are often left speechless and dumbfounded. We don’t know what to say or what to do. And when we do say or do something it seems trivial and trite. So how do we best respond in such situations?

Often we send condolences through cards, flowers, or phone calls, accompanied with money, casseroles, breads, meals and other physical gestures. Such responses are of course acknowledged and appreciated by the recipient in the best way they know how at the time of their grieving. All these ways are important to show care and concern. As is, simply giving of ourselves, our love and our time.

When my dear friend’s son took his life, I just sat with her and let her cry for hours. I even cried some with her. I said very little to try and console her. How can you console a weeping mother who just lost her son? Is there even any consolation to be found in such a tragic loss?

When my young nephew lost his four month old infant son to a tragic accident in the home, or my sister her stillborn baby, or a niece her young twins, I could only send love and prayers for them and hope that they would somehow find comfort and relief from their pain and sorrow.

When I almost lost my young son to a tragic hanging in my home, when I lost a child through a miscarriage, or when I lost my dream of a happy loving marriage… many friends and family members showed up in much the same way with prayers and love, food and flowers and words and hugs of comfort.

All of these are great ways that we can respond to others in such difficult times, but what I’m really asking here is:

When tragedy strikes How do we respond to it ourselves?

Do we lash out and curse God? State over and over that it just isn’t fair? Do we question again and again, why? Why me? Why them? Why this? Do we isolate ourselves from everyone and everything, refusing to face anything in life again because it’s all just too awful? Do we give up trying, feeling like why should we try, what’s the point of it all anyhow? Do we become bitter, angry, resentful or fearful? Maybe we go into over protective mode and refuse to allow ourselves or our children any freedoms and experiences in life that we can’t control because we’re too concerned about what might happen if we’re not super vigilant. Or maybe we just shut down emotionally and try not to feel anything at all.

We probably do some of all of the above in some shape or form for at least a little while. I know I have. Lately, however, I have come to realize that there is a better way to respond to tragedy.

It is not to shut down, get angry or go to any extremes.

Rather it is to be grateful, feel joy, and live and love life to its fullest.

How do you do that amidst terrible tragedy you ask?

You just have to choose to do so. After all, life is too short and too precious to take anything and anyone for granted. Since we never truly know when it’ll be our or anyone else’s that we know and love, last day here on earth, why would you want to spend any time with anyone that you love, including yourself, living in anger, bitterness or fear?

So when tragedy strikes… as it does and will. I say… cry a bit, feel the sorrow, feel the grief and pain…then let it go and get up and be grateful for every little thing you have in life. Be grateful for every person you are blessed to know for however long you get to know them. Be grateful for every experience you get to have in life and for every lesson you get to learn through them. Show those you love just how much you love them with some extra hugs, kisses, time spent with them, words of appreciation and gratitude spoken. Show the awful face of tragedy that it will not destroy you. Show the world and those around you that you will stand strong and still find joy in this life regardless of what terrible things happen because you know that joy is in you. And as you shine with such joy and love in the midst of your tragedy, you will allow others to do the same through theirs.

Or you could just shut down and be sad and angry and withdraw from living. It’s always an option. Just ask yourself this though: Wherein lies the real tragedy, is it in the loss or pain or sorrow of a loved one, or is it in not living your life full of love, joy and gratitude?


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