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When Horrible Things Happen

By Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

  • How do we make sense out of senseless brutality?
  • How do we deal with those who embrace an ideology of destruction?
  • How do we reckon with those who suckle their children on hatred?
  • What do we say to ourselves, our kids, our loved ones when a horrible thing happens?

We all have different responses to these questions. Here are mine:

We remember the words of those we hold in high esteem
Mr. Rogers: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

We cherish what we hold dear
We hug our kids a little tighter. We appreciate our loved ones even more. We commit random acts of kindness to make life easier for those we know and, perhaps more importantly, for those we don't know. We cherish the freedoms we have and are grateful to those who dedicate their lives to making that freedom possible.

We reach out to those more vulnerable than us
Of course, we do what we can do for those directly affected by the tragedy. But we do more than that. We extend a helping hand to those who are more vulnerable than we are. They may need to share their story, to dissolve into tears, to quiver with fear, to explode with rage. Whatever they require, we are there for them. It's healing for them; it's healing for us.

We do not define the human race by its worst elements
People are fantastic! They are kind. They are compassionate. They are big hearted. They are considerate and generous and loving and sympathetic. Need I say more? And yes, there are those who are cruel and cold and brutal and mean. But we do not let ourselves be corrupted by those elements. We deal with them when we must. But we do not allow them to corrupt our hearts.

We resolve to become more resilient
We may consider ourselves to be anything but resilient. Indeed, we may view ourselves as nervous, unable to deal with storm clouds and ticking bombs. We want life to be safe. Why not? But we recognize that life is fragile. Hence when tragedy strikes, we strive to become survivors, not victims. When we are ready and only when we are ready, we resolve to do what we can to make ourselves and our little corner of the world a better place. We rejoice in the wonder of life. And feel blessed to be a part of it, no matter how awful it is when horrible things happen.

Copyright © 2013: Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
Linda Sapadin is a psychologist and personal coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email or visit her website at PsychWisdom.
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