How To Handle Your Emotions in the Face of Tragedy



When we are confronted with tragedy, whether our own or others’, it can be difficult understanding how to move forward with our lives. Do we simply move on as if nothing has happened? Can we mourn without taking on the pain and anguish that we see around us?

Handling our thoughts and feelings in times of tragedy can be overwhelming and confusing. Specifically when that tragedy has left us questioning not only ourselves but the stability of life, humankind or even our own spiritual beliefs?

There is absolutely no right or wrong way of reacting to great loss – each of all of us is merely capable of managing our pain in the best way that we currently know how.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to limit your exposure to news. Try to focus on what you can control, and make self-care a priority. The following are some ideas to care for yourself and each other.

Respect your emotions. When you are faced with tragedy, it is vital that you do not stifle your feelings. Let your pain rise to the top, don’t let it grow silently inside – it will come back stronger than before. Connecting with your sadness and fear will empower you to better process your feelings, softening them, a little at a time, until the point when you can replace them with love.

Talk. Share your experience with friends, family, and neighbors. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, others probably are, too. Our ability to process difficult situations and make meaning from them helps us. 

Do something nice. It is simple, but giving kindness to another person who is suffering takes very little effort, but the impact can last a long time. It can make us feel better about the situation. Consider volunteering or donating in other ways. If you are able, give blood. When bad things happen, doing for others can help shift our focus to something good.

Spend time with people you care about and who care about you, When tragedy strikes, it can be helpful to surround yourself with people who restore your faith in humanity.

Take care of yourself. Eat, stay hydrated, and get plenty of sleep. You are a whole person. We need to take care of our whole self…. body, mind, and spirit.  If we become unbalanced it is more difficult to deal with these things.

Avoid alcohol and other mind-altering substances. Numbing the pain may seem tempting but using alcohol and other drugs can be dangerous, and actually delays the process of healing.

Ask for help. Talk to a counselor, pastor or another support person trained in helping people sort through troublesome thoughts and emotions. Help is often just a phone call or a few clicks away.

Be patient with yourself and just breathe. Emotional responses to tragedy are normal. Give yourself a break and don’t judge yourself – or others. Healing takes time, but it is out there.


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