Dealing with Tragedy and Grief
Over and over again you hear coaches and personal development teachers state how important it is to "stay
positive" and keep a "positive attitude". Most of us who have been working with positive-thinking techniques for
some time have gained fairly decent control over our own moods and mindsets, so we can stay in a positive state the
vast majority of time. But then something happens - something big, something devastating, and we quickly realize
that some things can't easily be cast aside in favor of a positive attitude.
How can you stay positive in the face of tragic circumstances like natural disasters, senseless massacres,
serious illness, family problems, financial pressure, and the holiday depression that so many people feel this time
of year? For many of us, the answer is simple; we CAN'T stay positive - at least not completely. When we're
overcome by feelings of grief, loss, anger, and fear, staying positive is the last thing on our minds. It seems
Grief is a necessary part of the healing process when we suffer a loss. Even if the loss doesn't affect us
personally, we can still feel grief when we see others struggling. Our hearts go out to them and we feel a sense of
what they must be going through, even if we can't grasp the full extent of their pain. But as necessary as the
grieving process is, it can quickly become overwhelming and take over your whole life. As a result, you may find
yourself feeling even more depressed, more hopeless, and even losing interest in life altogether.
My solution for times like these is to try to create a balance between grief and hope. This helps me to keep
things in perspective so the grief doesn't become overwhelming and blot out the blessings that are all around
Below are some tips to help you do the same:
- Allow the tears and anger.
First and foremost, it's important to allow yourself to express the "negative" feelings you may be feeling. We
are all emotional beings and we naturally react to painful situations with feelings of sadness, anger, disbelief,
and despair. The wonderful thing about these feelings is that if you don't repress them, they flow through you and
then gently decrease in intensity. Emotional pain comes in cycles, ebbing and flowing like the tides. If you simply
allow yourself to cry, scream, punch a pillow, write, draw, paint, or express your pain through any physical
medium, afterwards you feel clearer and lighter. Even if the pain is still there, it's softer, maybe a bit less
- Focus on hope and gratitude.
In between those moments of intense pain and sadness, you'll find it easier to lift your thoughts and feelings
to a better place, even if you wouldn't necessarily call it a "happy place". Can you think of one thing you are
grateful for? If so, focus on that one thing and recall the reasons why you are grateful for it. Stay with that
train of thought for a few minutes, and before long, you'll probably be able to think of other things you are
grateful for. Can you think of one thing that gives you hope? Can you see any positive changes that might develop
from the tragedy eventually? Focus on those things and allow them to lift your spirits.
- Get involved.
One of the best ways to uplift yourself is to help others in some way. Donate money to a worthwhile cause,
volunteer your time and service, reach out to others who are struggling and offer to help them in some way. Just
doing "something" can lift that heavy weight of helplessness and make you feel more empowered.
- Seek help.
If you truly feel overwhelmed by troublesome feelings, don't be afraid to seek help. There are so many wonderful
therapists and grief counselors that can help you to work through the pain. There are also many alternative methods
for easing emotional pain, like EFT, NLP, prayer and meditation. You can also reach out to friends and loved ones,
join a support group, or even start your own. Chances are, there are plenty of likeminded people who would love to
create a system of support and encouragement in your area.
- Give it time.
Most importantly, be patient and allow yourself time to work through the feelings that come up each day. Don't
say, "I should be over this by now." If you're still feeling pain, you simply haven't completed the grieving
process yet. The length of time it takes is different for everyone, and you shouldn't feel guilty or embarrassed
about your own healing process. Be gentle with yourself and in time you will heal.
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