“When you go through tragedy, you can either let it destroy you and you become bitter and never let it go, or you can let it make you stronger and let it make you grow…” -Evanescence
There has been far too much suffering in our nation these past few weeks with fires raging in the west, Hurricane Harvey reeking havoc in Southern Texas, and now Hurricane Irma devastating the Caribbean islands and on the verge of slamming into Florida (my home). I don’t yet know what’s in store for my community, but these past weeks have made me wonder, as I have before, how people who suffer through these tragedies cope. So many people have lost so much.
Having been a therapist, a minister’s wife, and a writer, I have witnessed people who actually do grow stronger (so much easier said than done) when they suffer a great loss in their lives, whether it’s the death of a loved one or a health crisis or the loss of a job or relationship or a hurricane destroying the future they thought was in store for them.
There are no easy answers for dealing with suffering. But here are some thoughts that might help.
- Cry easily and often. There’s no way any of us can get through the grief process without actually grieving, that is letting ourselves be engulfed by the pain of our loss. It’s a scary thing to do because we’re never sure we’ll come out the other end. But we need to feel the sadness before we can let go of it. The pain means we loved what we lost, and we’ll miss it.
- Rejoice and give thanks. Why rejoice? Because maybe things could have turned out worse — though that might be hard to believe for a while. Because there was joy in what we loved and lost and we can still remember and hold on to that feeling. Because the future can still be good and hope is waiting around the corner. It may take some time to get to this point, so patience is a necessity.
- Connect. We can reach out to friends and family and let them give us the support we need. Cry together, laugh together. Hugging is amazingly helpful. But the greatest healer is to heal others, to help those around us in their time of crisis.
- Rebuild. Perhaps the most difficult of all choices is to have enough hope to rebuild our lives, and to do that we need to look ahead instead of behind us. We need to adapt to our new situation and envision a new life. And then it’s time to get to work.
- Repeat. Because life is full of loss and pain — as well as abundance and joy — we need to repeat this process over and over, growing and becoming stronger each time.
I’m still trying to learn how to cope with tragedy myself, and I predict it will take, well, a lifetime. I hope and pray that those who are suffering now will be able to cope and rebuild.