Tips For Dealing With Tragedies: Public and Private
There are two types of tragedies that affect people in life: public and private. Public tragedies are particularly stressful because of their scope, cause, duration, and/or media attention. Recent examples include the events of 9/11/01, the Columbine High School massacre, and various natural disasters such as floods and tornadoes. Public tragedies affect large numbers of people at once, compared to private tragedies (e.g., a death in one family) which affect relatively few individuals.
Below are some key pieces of advice for dealing with a public or private tragedy: · Advance preparation for a tragedy is always helpful. An example is donating blood. One pint of blood can save three lives. Another example of advance preparation is having at least three months expenses set aside in an emergency reserve fund. · A common reaction to highly stressful events is a deep sense of powerlessness. The best antidote for this is to "do something," preferably with other people. That's why memorial services can be such a powerful healer. They help people regain a sense of order by staying connected with others who have experienced a similar life event. · A good way to deal with a crisis is to be "task oriented". Many people find it helpful to make lists of things that need to be done and when (e.g., next 2 days, 1 week, 1 month, etc.) and to take action on these tasks. · Helping professionals (teachers, doctors, counselors, etc.) have a valuable role in helping people prepare for the range of experiences that they might experience. For example, telling victims that "it is normal to feel like....". This helps victims realize that they are not crazy or alone in their reaction to a stressful event. · How people appraise a situation greatly impacts their reaction to a public (or private) tragedy. Some people always see the downside of events while others see the glass as half full and are often quoted as saying, "it could have been much worse." · Assessing your coping resources and abilities can be helpful before and during times of tragedy. How have you experienced loss before, and what helped and what did not? For example, some people say that their faith and family members help sustain them or that they are fortunate to have emergency savings, good friends, or an employed spouse. · The goal of grief is to integrate a tragic loss into one's life. Rituals and memorialization are an important part of the healing process. Examples include planting a tree in someone's memory, establishing a scholarship fund or foundation, and placing a deceased individual's favorite ornaments on a Christmas tree. · Tragedies often include the following stages: an initial event, the early aftermath or crisis phase, the short-term aftermath or processing phase, and the long-term aftermath or adaptation phase. Everyone reacts differently in a crisis, though, and no one significant event, such a memorial, trial, or verdict will automatically end the process of grief.