What do we do when sudden and unexpected life events come our way? Events we have no control over and events we cannot possibly prepare ourselves for.
Things like death of a loved one, floods, tornado’s, fires, illness, family estrangement, often come into our lives and we discover, our whole world changes. What used to be our routine, becomes disrupted. What we used to have as security, becomes dislodged. What we used to know as familiar, becomes unfamiliar, uncertain, unknown.
If you, or someone you know has lost homes due to fires, floods, tornado’s, the devastation and chaos it brings into lives causes numerous emotional and physical responses.
Death of a loved ones causes us to experience deep, lasting effects of dealing with the hole we feel inside, the missing or our dear one, and all the memories we are left with.
Estranged from family or certain members in our family brings its own resulting emotional consequences.
On the emotional spectrum these are some of what we may experience; mood swings, anxiety, fear, panic, helplessness, numb, dazed numbness, powerlessness, anger, dread, depression.
On the physical spectrum many experience; gut issues, exhaustion, restlessness, insomnia, chest pains, headaches, as a result of suffering long-term chronic stress from crises in their lives.
Although I have experienced the death of a child, health crisis, and have an estranged family member, I have never gone through what some of my friends have during the floods of 2006 and 2011 in The Southern Tier Upstate NY area.
Several of our friends lost their homes twice in each flood, and the second time after spending years in rebuilding their homes from the inside out, which took an incredible amount of monies (not always reimbursed by insurance or federal relief funds), determination, effort, constant work, determination in the never-ending work that had to be done, often taking them to the point of utter exhaustion physically and emotionally.
A few of our friends spent the five years rebuilding their homes only to have it taken away in the flood of 2011. Cannot imagine the heartbreak!
The death of a loved one brings changes to life and catapults us into having to walk through days in a numbed and sometimes a lethargic way at times, feeling as if our life will never return to ‘normal’.
Illness is another challenging time. If it is new, we experience multiple doctor visits, to different specialists in our quest to investigate what medical condition we have so we can get the appropriate treatment. The weariness of dealing with new symptoms, along with wondering what is ‘wrong’ with us, often brings us to a place of feeling like we are going crazy and all we seek is relief.
Yet, the ‘not knowing’ can bring many symptoms that add to the numerous ones we are already finding ourselves having to endure with any new medical illness.
I have been involved and have many near friends who are having to deal with life long chronic conditions and I too have been through the madness of having sudden health challenges come into my life, where my life became one centered around medical professionals, in my own quest to discover what was ‘wrong’ with me.
When families are torn apart from the ties our children become connected with that are negatively influencing them to the point of conflict, strife, misunderstandings between you and them and our child decides to cut ties with us as a result of their partners dysfunctional way of relating, it also leaves us having to deal with numerous emotional consequences as a result of this ‘missing place’ in our family. We are left with a hole, a space where our child used to be in our lives and all the shared memories that go along with that.
I have experienced this scenario also and I am in relationships with many friends who are also living out this sad, but true life event that seems to occur more and more in today’s world.
All these different scenarios are tragedies that come into our lives in the often unexpected challenges we experience as human beings living in a world where suffering and emotional pain exists. All of these scenarios cause us to share in similar emotional responses.
All of these scenarios cause us to suffer as we have each come face to face with loss(es), and we must find a way in them to cope and adjust to what has become our ‘new normal’.
Adapting to crisis does not come easy nor can we just deny, pretend, or bury ourselves or our feelings in the midst of having to continue moving forward in our lives. These events come to us in the midst of careers, raising children, educational pursuits, volunteer activities and all the responsibilities of our everyday living out of this journey called life.
Although we cannot dismiss our emotional responses to life crisis, we can choose to incorporate into our days, supports which can help aid us, giving us a strength to walk through these difficulties.
The bible tells about a man who had given up on life and you may, at times, may feel this way too.
“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life…” Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of baked bread over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb.” (1 Kings 19:4-8)
In our deep discouragement, God sometimes provides us simple gifts such as food and rest. He recognizes our grief and may be sending help in unexpected ways. Finding relief and gratitude for the simple things in life can help us greatly.
We are not alone in the desert of our own grief, although we can feel like we are walking around in an isolated aloneness, even when surrounded by a group of people. We can get help from: our friends and can make new friends, from clergy. We can get help from our communities and from God.
Simply sharing a good meal with someone can give you the strength you need.
For those who know God, even though you will not feel His presence at times during your grief journey, know He is right there with you, as He dwells inside you and His ability is in you, to help you through all of what you must do in these seasons of life changes, and He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. Hold on to Him as He is holding onto you.
For those who are angered at God, it is OK. No matter what you are feeling, it is alright, and you need to acknowledge where you are, accept what is happening, and allow your feelings to surface, and just be with them.
For those who know not God, perhaps this is a time you can reach out to Him. As God is right here and He loves each one of us and He has a power in the Holy Spirit who gives us ability to persevere in the midst of the very intense hardships we experience as humans.
Hard as this may be, as you may be feeling several different emotions at once and/or you may move from one to another, it is all OK. This is all aright as this is a normal human response to grieving. Try to be patient with yourself and allow whatever is happening to happen as this will help you in moving forward doing those everyday activities you must continue to do.
You do not have to handle everything all at once. Let yourself process changes one at a time and reach out for help when you need it, and when you feel ready; from a friend, from a professional, from a clergy person, or from those in your own network.
Here is one step you can take to help organize your thoughts.
It is important to in the immediacy of any crisis to try to take it one step at a time, prioritizing those tasks that are necessary to be done.
- If you are a believer ask friends, church members or those in your home group to pray for you and be specific about what is needed.
- List tasks needing to be completed; most importance needs first.
- Write down the steps you have to take to complete the tasks most pressing and break this out for specific things you need to do in order to finish these tasks.
- If you no longer have your home, try to get some paper to do this, or have another person help you in sorting through what needs to be done first. You may have several things needing done, try to put in place those things you need right away.
Write tasks down in the order of need, then methodically work through these until you have accomplished your task.
Writing things downs gives you a concrete picture of what needs to be done as your memory might fail you in the midst of being overwhelmed and a list will help guide you, keeping you on track.
Whether you have experienced any of the above, or divorce, assault, rape, or other types of crisis we can be of great help to one another by sharing what helped us most. It is important to talk about what you are experiencing with a trusted friend, to allow your feelings to be processed, and to help you in sorting through the complex process of things needing to be accomplished.
This process in talking and communicating with others helps us name what we are feeling while also aiding others to give empathy and to know how they can help and how they can pray more specifically and effectively for you.
If you have experienced a crisis or several crisis’s in your life, what things did you do that helped?
What resources can you share in the ‘Penny for your thoughts’ section below that you think might help others who are experiencing crisis, tragedy or disasters in their life?
What have you learned in your own experience you think may help others?