How to Cope and Survive Through Tragedy
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How to Cope and Survive Through Tragedy

Surviving tragedy

In a single moment we stand in shock, our assumptions of safety, justice and the greater good are shattered. All that we have believed, counted on and assumed about our world crumbles at our feet and we begin a long a difficult journey of putting the broken pieces back together.

It doesn't matter what the event. We each will respond differently to various circumstances. The cause for our grief may be deeply personal or universal but the result is the same; life as we have come to know it has changed and we must cope. When tragedy strikes there is a shift that rocks the ground we stand on and places in a situation that can feel foreign. So how do we cope?

First and foremost, allow the grief. It is necessary to experience the feelings connected with any life changing event without judgment. There are no should's when we are experiencing personal pain. We each move through the process at a different rate and sometimes from different perspectives. Acknowledge your feelings as yours and ok. Even if those feelings do not seem to fit the circumstance, they are your response to the situation and must be felt. Sorting through the flood of feelings can be as overwhelming as the cause itself. Take time to express those emotions in safe ways. Sometimes writing about what you are experiencing can help by taking the feeling out of yourself and placing it on paper. This allows you to look at them and perhaps even understand them.

Seeking support when you are ready to do so is another avenue to follow as you move through the tragic event. Family and friends are a wonderful resource, however, sometimes a person who may not be so close to the situation is a better alternative. An objective and supportive counselor can assist through the more difficult periods of coping and perhaps offer guidance as to how best to express your emotions. A qualified professional will be less judgmental than perhaps a friend who's support is time limited and not as patient with your process.

Finding piece in the situation comes with time. As you move through the process of living through a tragedy there will come a time when you may want to search for the blessing. Early on, there will be little to understand about how a blessing may be part of your experience however, as you heal the shattered assumptions and broken pieces, you may come to understand how this event has somehow contributed something good. We are often quick to label events as good and bad rather than simply look at the situation and see at as it is and find the hope again.

While gratitude for a tragedy does not at first seem possible, it is a major step in the healing process. It shifts our focus away from the horror and allows us to see the God of our being at work in every situation. Perhaps recognizing something as simple as how the occurrence gave you a new perspective on something is the blessing that will propel you to a higher level of healing. We can see this, for instance, in terms of those who have survived abuse and become advocates for children or a mother who lost her child in a drunk driving accident become a spokesperson for MADD. These individuals have turned their tragedy into a way to help others. It does not mean they are grateful for the experience, but it does mean they are grateful for the life experience that has led to a great good.

Living through a tragedy is a grief process not to be rushed or to be timed. Allowing that process and gathering support will enable the pieces of our shattered world, to come together, one piece at a time.

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