Tragedy is a strong word. I’m not using it lightly. Maybe there is one or two of us who escape life without a tragic event occurring - one of those events that turns our world upside down in an instant. However, most of us have to deal with gut-wrenching heartbreak and loss. It’s a part of life that is sometimes hard to accept. Why must life be so seemingly unfair sometimes? Why must it open depths of hurt and sorrow we didn’t know we could possibly feel?
One Thursday evening in February, John and I were hanging around on a normal night at the house. The little one was fast asleep. Then John received a text from his father. “Where are you? I need to talk to you urgently.”
And the next phone call changed our lives forever.
John lost his sister that night to a gutless act of violence by her estranged husband. Priscilla was a beautiful mother to 2 year old Niko and a deeply loved daughter and sister. Her life was stolen from her and from her family. We didn’t sleep much the rest of the night. There was pacing, shock, and the loudest silence in the house.
It’s been almost four months since her brutal murder, but life has found a way to move on.
Almost all of us have had something occur that has stopped us in our tracks and made us reevaluate all of life or look for the deeper meaning to everything. I’ve had other deeply painful moments in my life – divorce, losing a pregnancy, and 9/11 to name a few. Here are some steps I found useful and natural to go through to get through those next few days and weeks.
1. First and foremost, don’t be afraid to ask for help from others. Some people (ahem boys listen up) have trouble asking for assistance, but this makes you human. Allow the good in others to shine through – goodness IS there despite what we are bombarded with on the evening news. Allow others in. We are all on this journey together.
2. Take a moment to remember who you are in this world, this universe, this life. Whatever your religious beliefs, we all fit into this universe in some way. Maybe our life story is just a speck of sand in the ocean as far as the history of the universe goes, and maybe this chapter in our life is just another of humanity’s tragic tales. However, YOU MATTER. It’s your choice to fade away or to make a positive impact on others. Just by sharing your pain you may touch someone in a way you could have never imagined.
3. Find quiet reflection time alone.
4. Be around children in small doses. The lives of children are simple and full of joy and discovery. See the world through their eyes for a few moments.
5. Name 3 simple things you are going to do today to feed your soul. Some days it may simply be taking a shower, eating a bowl of something nourishing even though you have no appetite, or taking a 5 minute walk outside. The point is to accomplish something that isn’t too daunting and slowly take steps to getting back on your feet again.
6. Give yourself pats on the back. When you are really struggling to find any joy in the day, you need to be your own cheerleader. I’ve been through depression. I know how impossible the idea of cheering yourself up can seem, but faking it until you make it can work over time. Give yourself a pat on the back for getting out of bed and showering. Give yourself a pat on the back for eating one healthy meal. Give yourself a pat on the back for smiling at one stranger in the grocery store.
7. Give yourself permission to take two steps forward and one step back. Not every day has to be a great day. It’s okay to feel like you have regressed a little. Try again tomorrow.
8. Find pleasure in simple joys. Did that coffee by the window seem particularly relaxing this morning? Did the giggle of your little one make you smile? Look deeply at the flower blooming. All the mechanics of the flower in bloom is complicated, but what a simple gift for us to appreciate.
9. Go back to basics. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. This simple act can make life not feel so overwhelming. Pare your life down to what is really important to you. Family. Nourishing your soul. Being a good friend. Whatever it may be. Just focus on those simple roles and tasks.
10. Spread happiness to others.
11. See this moment in your life as an opportunity.
Yes, the pain feels unbearable right now, but you must feel the pain and not bury it to move forward. Something good can come of this if you search for it. In Priscilla’s death, we can share her story and be advocates against domestic violence. Niko has extended family surrounding him and is free from the turmoil in his previous life. There are opportunities to move on in a positive way from every tragic situation. When you are ready, take that step forward.
12. Meditate, pray and literally, feel your heart expanding.
Close your eyes. Spend 15 seconds and notice your heart filling up the space around you, the room, the house, the building, the whole city, the whole earth. It will change everything. Love changes everything.