Surviving Tragedy

Things happen. That’s the unchangeable, unrelenting, and (more often than not) unapologetic fact of life. If you are like me, you might even give it the punchier little platitude of “shit happens”. People say it everywhere, and they say it like that makes what’s happening better. As though, if you can shorten a national, personal, or even minor seeming tragedy into a tiny little bundle of letters, a simple phrase no longer than two words, if possible, if that length and simplicity can be achieved than the massive, world-changing and life shaking event doesn’t have to touch you.

I live in America, and have for most of my life, born and raised all over this country because my father was a career Marine. I’ve been involved with the military both on the fringe and as a spouse through a significant amount of my adult life as well and have the gift of never existing in a bubble. I have never lived anywhere long enough to only have the opinions or experiences of that area and my friend groups have never been completely one-sided in belief.

We are hurting today, as a nation and as a people. We have been suffering for a long time, longer than any person’s political career has lasted, and longer, probably, than we have been a country. We are hurting, and while it would be easy for me to use whatever kind of voice I have right here to delve into my opinions on the presidents handling of the massive string of devastating hurricanes followed by this horrific act of violence, or how much I would love to talk about gun statistics and why I am fundamentally for against what I am, I won’t today.

Maybe soon I will have the energy and will to write about why I believe that things are mentally devastating for American in general or about how to survive the political climate and remain a full and okay human being, but today I want to discuss how to continue through tragedy and continue to be empathetic and healthy human beings, how to both give your all and still manage to not feel like everything has been drained from you.

In a very short amount of time America has suffered three major hurricanes, unusual earthquakes, and now this devastating shooting in Los Vegas. On a personal front, this year I lost my grandfather that was very close to me, and my life has moved into a state of transition that is terrifying and has forced me out of any kind of stability. Each time I feel myself looking to my old habits for comfort. Whether that is overeating, laying around and sulking, losing my forward movement. It’s easy to just be sad, to feel hopeless.

It’s a cycle, don’t be lulled into it.

When you give up, when you give in, when you let all of your control slip to you hurt yourself for longer. So, the best thing I thought I could do today, while I feel so down, is to share how I keep it together when things are feeling pretty bleak.

 

  • You are entitled to your feelings

Everyone handles stress differently and pretending you don’t feel the way you do, or that this doesn’t affect you is damaging. When something bad happens in the world it can seem like if you weren’t in the direct line of time, you aren’t allowed to have a feeling. It is human nature to respond to trauma in the world and it keeps us living. It doesn’t make you selfish or attention seeking to be sad that bad things happen. This is a world you are a citizen of, you should care.

 

  • Don’t ignore it

It’s okay to step back from the news for a moment, collect your thoughts and your breath, clear your mental state. It’s not irresponsible to stop watching the news for a few days. What is irresponsible is pretending this isn’t happening. I, personally, find it disrespectful to the victims of a tragedy to pretend it just didn’t happen. It happened and the world is changed because of it, whether that is the whole world, the country, or just your world. Turning yourself to ice and shutting it out only prolongs the pain. In order to continue in a healthy way, you have to feel the pain of tragedy. Feel it and move forward.

 

  • Be Proactive

There is a guilt in the world of loss and tragedy. The surefire, never fails, way to cope with the anxiety of the guilt of not living through a disaster when it is happening is to help. There is a surplus of prayer in the world when disaster strikes (and if prayer is your thing, it is a great starting point), but what the world really suffers from is a great deal of prayer and small amount of action. Volunteering and donating when you can is such a massive help. Even if you don’t have money, donate old clothing, donate a craft you can do (knitting, crochet, sewing, building, anything). If you can’t volunteer where the tragedy took place then volunteer somewhere else. In addition, if you are able to give blood, please do. This is a quick and simple way to make a huge life and death impact on a life for purely altruistic reasons and you can never go wrong balancing your karma a little with some altruism.

 

  • Practice Gratitude

Write what you are grateful for. Write it over and over, add to it when you can, make massive lists. Tell the people in your life you love them, and mean it. Apologize to those that have wronged you and reconnect. Call your mom and tell her that you are grateful she protected you in a world where children are so often hurt by their parents, call the ex you parted with on good terms and let them know you appreciate who they were in your life, call a friend you don’t speak with as much anymore and tell them that even though you lost touch, you love them and they matter in your world.

 

A little bit of light can show the way in the dark. Love and compassion is never a bad thing and is always in too short of supply. Americans and the world are suffering and we are all in this together, we will get through this and I am proud of all of you for surviving the best you can.

Keep your chin up, buttercup.

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