If you asked us what we were doing on August 3, 2006, we wouldn’t have a clue. But ask us about August 4, 2006, and we can recount every moment. That was the day our lives changed forever. Our grown son was involved in an accident that ended up causing a 17-year-old girl to be paralyzed for life.
The weeks and years that followed taught us several things about what to do when tragedy strikes. Some things we did right, and some things we did wrong.
Since we have a ministry that focusses on marriage-crisis intervention, we have walked alongside many hurting couples whose lives were also turned upside down when tragedy struck. Based on our personal experience and of those we’ve helped, having the 5 following things in place will help couples thrive and even strive in the midst of a storm.
1. IMPLEMENT OR CALL YOUR PRAYER CHAIN
If you don’t already have at least 5 people whom you trust, that you can ask to pray for you, get proactive and put a group together now. There is an unexplained comfort that takes place when people are praying for you and your family.
2. LET AT LEAST ONE PERSON WHO IS NOT TOO EMOTIONALLY CLOSE HELP YOU
In our case, this turned out to be a couple from our church who showed up at the scene and wanted to help. By having someone we knew, but who was not so emotionally connected, it freed up our other family members and close friends to grieve with us, while still getting the necessary help we needed.
This help included things such as: making calls, rescheduling appointments, picking up a few items from the store, and even taking my car home to make sure I didn’t have to drive while Joe helped our daughter-in-law and grandkids. It surprised us as to how many routine tasks we were just incapable of doing during the first 24-hours.
3. LET EACH PERSON PROCESS GRIEF IN THE WAY THEY WERE DESIGNED
Some of our family found comfort through talking, some preferred sitting quietly, while others wanted to stay busy. This was unchartered territory for us and it was something Joe and I did wrong.
Since Joe wanted to be active and found solace in completing projects around the house, I thought he wasn’t hurting as much as I was. He, on the other hand, couldn’t understand how I could keep talking about what happened over and over and suggested I get my mind off of things by being active or at least quiet.
We had to work out our grieving differences and learn to let each other have our own method of coping.
4. GET PROFESSIONAL HELP WHEN NEEDED
This may include a physician, legal advisor, pastor, or professional counselor. When tragedy strikes it will at least involve one or all of these areas. In our case we were left scrambling trying to find the help we needed while we were emotionally drained.
Getting referrals for areas you don’t already have, and keeping their contact information available will help you avoid going through what we did.
5. AVOID “WHAT IF” AND ACCEPT WHAT IS
In John 16:33, Jesus told us that we would have troubles in this world. He didn’t say maybe. Regardless of what we believe or want, it is true that the world in which we live is full of heartache and trouble. When tragedy strikes it is tempting to play the “what-if” game in our heads. I did it. But I learned that the game in my head always ended without an answer and it was wasted time.
As most of us know, there are stages of emotional responses to catastrophic events and we naturally experience these stages. Emotions such as shock, denial, anger, guilt, and so on. When couples realize these stages are normal and allow each person in the family to experience them, there is less chance of people getting stuck and not moving on to acceptance.
Bad things happen to good people. There are seldom answers that make sense in the face of tragedy. We know. We just wanted to pass on what we’ve learned and hope it helps you or someone you love.
Please share any other tips that you may have or your story if you think it will help other readers. God bless you.