Saturday, July 21, 2012
Things To Avoid When The Worst Happens
Typically many of us have never experienced the shock and intense pain of a sudden accident, death or other tragedy. So our first response is to try to quickly reduce the hurt for those impacted or ourselves. We probably want to help deep down inside but, sadly, when we do that we tend to hurt more and either delay the healing to come or make it more difficult.
So let me suggest some things, words and responses to stay away from when we or someone we know has faced one of life's trainwrecks or disasters.
First, don't offer simplistic answers. Some of them can be religious in nature. God meant for this to happen or God needed your little girl in Heaven more.
Others might have political overtones. This is the fault of all those Tea Party nuts or those liberals who want to get rid of all our laws. A third group of responses are probably more heartfelt but just as unhelpful: Everything's going to be fine or it's going to all work out in the end or they're in a better place now.
Second, a related warning is, don't minimize what happened. Of course be sensitive to how much they can hear right now. But the events in Aurora, for example, were the result of an evil, terrible person. To talk about it as a mere tragedy or their loved one happening to just be in the wrong place at the wrong time waters down their loss.
Third, don't talk too much. And even if we avoid some of the above poor answers we can just keep talking to hurting people because we feel awkward and terrible when everything is quiet. But a simple, Hey, I'm here for you and ready to listen when you feel like talking. The better option over talking is to just be there for them. Your presence will matter as much as anything.
Fourth, don't dominate their time and do not let others overdo their welcome either. Often people want to rush to the hurting person not thinking that there are probably dozens of others thinking the same thing. It's OK to tell friends that the person isn't ready for a lot of visitors yet but has their needs being met right now. And if we're one of those close friends we need to be sure to give our loved ones permission to ask us to leave and give them time alone. Better yet we should move on before they need to ask us.
I hope most of us never face anything as disastrous (and evil) as Aurora or Columbine or Oklahoma City. But most of us will have to face a huge loss with someone we know and love. Let's be sure we are prepared to help them walk through that hard time with love, true care and kindness.