I am a person who spends their days helping people “work through” tragic events in their lives. I, however, also have firsthand experience with quite tragic events. I have survived rape, a sibling’s suicide and the sudden loss of a parent. So I come to write this article from both my clinical perspective as a therapist and as a survivor of tragedy. There are many positive takeaways from tragedy, though I wish we could just embrace them without needing the tragedy as a prompter to them. These are just some of the lessons that I have learned from my personal dealings with tragedy, and also what I see my clients gain in the wake of tragedies in their lives.
Whether it be a car accident, a loss of a loved one, a natural disaster, or any other tragedy, we often cope better than we ever expected. We are quick to imagine tragedy and predict our responses, but thankfully, we are very often wrong. Surviving an unthinkable loss or other tragic event is a monumental testimony to your inner strength.
Those who have suffered tragedy are often the most grateful. There is often something they choose to focus on that gives them a sense of purpose and meaning after the tragic event which in turn, helps them feel gratitude for what they still have in life – whether that is family, their health, friends, the air they breathe, etc.
LOVE & CONNECTION
When tragedy strikes, those we care about come to the forefront of our minds. We crave connection with our loved ones and usually do what we need to in order to reconnect or stay connected after a tragedy happens.
NEW PATHWAYS OPEN UP
We tend to make major life adjustments after a tragedy strikes. We hear stories all the time of someone losing a loved one to a drunk driver and the survivor turns their life into one of advocacy and education. Other times, a tragic loss or a brush with death can lead to a person re-evaluating the choices they’ve made. Maybe they could be closer in their relationship. Maybe they will seek a career change. Tragedy shakes up our brains and we inevitably make changes as a result of it.
LIFE IS PRECIOUS
When tragedy strikes, whether it is an actual loss, a perceived loss, or a brush with death, we are reminded of just how precious and fleeting life is. We might have thought that way before the tragedy struck, but after a tragedy, we feel it and it leads to change in our thinking and our behavior that is in effort to keep this feeling going.
For me, after my father passed suddenly in 2009, it propelled me to finally finish my doctoral dissertation. He was my biggest supporter, but I was procrastinating about completing it. I also took my private practice in a more heartfelt direction, which has lead to success I had not thought possible. I also reached out and reconnected with several long lost cousins and we now have regular contact through social media and we’ve had at least 2 large reunions. I appreciate my environment – what and who I have in my life, and I know that every day I get in this world counts and I try to act in accordance with that. I invite you to think about how you can embrace these lessons from tragedy and challenge you to implement them today. Don’t wait for tragedy to strike – live with gratitude, love and connection, strength, direction, and appreciation for the transient nature of life today.