D.I.Y. SUNDAYS.....How to Pick Up the Pieces after a Tragedy
We are never prepared for a tragedy like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Or like the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Or like the attacks on the World Trade Centers. Devastating, horrific events like these are rare, but they do happen. When they do, it is not just those who were directly affected who must learn how to survive and how to live life again. Even the spectators -- even those of us who lived hundreds or thousands away from the events -- can feel the same fear, grief, and despair that these tragedies can cause.
Fortunately, you can pick up the pieces after a tragedy and learn how to move on. Of course, the process will be different depending on how closely you were involved in the tragedy -- and if you were directly affected, you will need to do serious work with a counselor. However, these steps can help you start the healing process:
Don't Dwell on the "Why"
You will want to find answers to explain why a tragedy happened so you can make better sense of it. After the Sandy Hook shooting, people questioned the shooter's motivation, how mental health care treatment have prevented the tragedy, and of course, how different gun laws may have kept weapons out of the shooter's hands. After Hurricane Katrina, people questioned the evacuation procedure and the quality of the city's infrastructure.
Though you may want to question how the tragedy could have happened, answers will rarely be found. You will dwell on asking "why" but will likely never get the satisfaction of an answer. Therefore, you will not be able to move on. Don't focus on why the tragedy happened; focus on what you can do to heal.
Mourn the Loss
Even if you were not directly involved in the tragedy -- even if you were not present or do not know anyone who was present -- you may feel grief. You may feel grief for those who were lost. You may feel grief over a certain loss of "innocence" or hope on your part. You may feel fear, hopelessness, or despair.
Allow yourself to mourn that loss. Experience the grieving process so you can get through those feelings and begin healing.
Find others who can understand what you are going through and can offer you support. You may want to find other survivors or others who were affected in a similar way by the events. Or you may simply want to surround yourself with family and friends who can offer you support.
If you have been more directly impacted by the tragedy, your support can be a counselor or group therapy. It is important to get the right kind of support to help you process your feelings and get on the road to healing.
Maintain Your Routine
It is important to continue with your "normal" life as much as possible. Instead of giving in to despair and falling into inaction, you should focus on maintaining your regular routine as much as possible. Get up and go to bed at the same time, eat meals, go to work, see friends, and get some exercise. If you don't try to do these things, you run the risk of allowing yourself to wallow in your grief and to become immobilized by despair.
Focus on Positive Action
You may feel angry or helpless after a tragedy because you feel like there is nothing you can do about what has happened. While you cannot change the past, you can focus on positive action to shape the future. You can volunteer with relief groups. You can work with advocacy organizations that are trying to bring about change. You can make a donation to a non-profit organization doing important work on a related issue.
By focusing on these positive actions, you can feel like you are doing something to prevent future tragedies, and that can help you in the healing process.
No one can ever be truly prepared for a tragedy. However, when a tragedy does happen, these steps can help you to pick up the pieces and begin again. Ultimately, you will make it through the healing process and learn how to live again.
Carmen Brettel is a writer and manager for Studentgrants.org. In her spare time, Carmen enjoys gardening and volunteering at animal shelters.