Lots of things go wrong in life and when a disaster happens we can get torn apart. It may be the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, an accident or loss of money, or something else so wildly wrong you are devastated.
It’s not really fair to compare the loss of life, or extreme illness with a disappointment – but sometimes we react with our almost maximum sadness or anger. This is not helpful.
Finding and capturing your strength during times of disaster and extreme upset is what all of us must attempt, no matter how futile the mission seems. So when you are confronted with a huge loss – someone passes away or departs from your life, a treasured job goes up in smoke, you suffer an accident or a sum of money doesn’t materialize, you will likely be consumed with emotions: anger, stress, grief, devastation, despair…
What you need are the three parts of you that will have to work together.
1. Vent and manage the emotions so they don’t set you back
Don’t deny your feelings. Experience them – but rather than inflicting them on all others, find one or two close people or professionals and talk it through. Also find somewhere quiet to commune, scream in an empty room or on a beach if you must, and let your emotions gradually wash over rather than hold them back.
If you feel outrage, talk it through to move past blame and anger. For victims of crime and deception, this will be an excruciating time – GET HELP! You don’t have to do this alone. Try not to overwhelm all of your friends and family with what you’re going through, try not to go over and over the same issues with the same people, or even many people.
Talk with those who are resilient, caring and constructive. It’s important to feel and move to a constructive place. You can’t control what has happened, you only have yourself to work with. Misery does not love company, and you won’t be good for much at this time, so be careful not to pull down those around you possible equally upset or maybe dealing with their own concurrent issues. Negative energy is VERY contagious.
2. Deal with the current crisis
Go where you can sit and think without interruption. Don’t worry if you look or feel terrible. Organise basics – what’s needed for the day – for you and family. Take time out. Walk. Cry in the shower. Then try to quiet your inner/outer tears.
In the ashes and debris of your hopes, you will look, and little by little, you may perceive the germination of something different. You may not see anything right away; just loss, blankness and fear. Keep looking, listening and while you ponder, try to gradually quell those gut-wrenching knots and those big blockages in your throat, that clamped feeling in your head.
What were the moments in your life where things went very right? What did you do then? What inner resources did you call on? Try to be objective here; be your own counsellor and if you feel too upset to be – seek one. It’s critical to MOVE FORWARD – small steps but forward direction. So focus on practicalities – who needs to be told, what needs to be cancelled, what needs to be organised, what needs to be arranged? Can you take time off? A day? Can you get some help? Who? When? What exactly is needed? Make a list and work through it even if your heart is feeling like it is cut out of you. You will find strength in getting things done.
3. Plan ahead with this new changed situation
If you are beginning to feel a little calmer, now you can gradually amass what you know and have, and see what if anything is going to take you forward. Do your research and look around. What do you need now? What can you do without for the time being? Think of this period as a form of emotional running on empty.
You may have to seek nourishment from fewer resources, but if you can focus on one step at a time, get one thing organised, completed, and you will gradually build momentum. Reach out to your friends and family, even former colleagues and acquaintances. Who strikes you as being pretty go-ahead or doing quite well (i.e. in a position to advise you)? Don’t choose people who have seldom experienced loss or failure, or who appear impervious to others’ difficulties – they will lack empathy and possibly the tools to assist you.
Don’t let the odd bum steer put you off. Sometimes it forces you to head in a better direction. Spend time with those people who make you feel good. Avoid those who don’t.
Loss of any kind is horrible – it can be a blow to every fibre of your being. Don’t gloss over or attempt to ignore it. Make it the seeds for something brave, new and right for you.
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.