Coping with loss and tragedy can be especially difficult for anyone, whether they are facing a loved one's death, losing a home to a disaster, or another such significant loss. The way we deal with life’s tragedies is different for everyone, and no two people alike will have the same experience.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How Does Tragedy Affect People's Lives?
- How to Deal With Your Own Tragedies or Tragic Losses
- How to Help Loved Ones Deal With Tragedy or Tragic Loss
- What Can Life Look Like After a Tragedy?
Coming to terms with loss can be painful and create feelings of anxiety and fear of the unknown. Dealing with these complicated grief reactions and learning how to move past a tragic loss can be overwhelming, leaving a sense of imbalance and inability to cope.
Here are some practical tips on how you can offer support, empathy, and love to help yourself or your loved ones deal with tragedy or tragic loss.
How Does Tragedy Affect People’s Lives?
Suffering through tragedy has the effect of derailing a person’s life in many ways. Depending on the magnitude of the loss, it has the potential to completely change someone’s outlook on life and their overall sense of purpose.
Recovering from loss becomes an increasingly important task in ensuring that you or your loved ones return as close to everyday life as possible post-tragedy.
How to Deal With Your Own Tragedies or Tragic Losses
Helping yourself is one of the best ways to heal from your loss after suffering a significant setback. Ultimately, no one but you is responsible for yourself and for getting your life back together after a tragic loss or other tragedy.
But, how can you get through your pain and suffering when it’s debilitating, and it feels like there’s no end in sight to your suffering? Here are some ways you can endure while going through the stages of grief and eventually move forward with your life.
1. Accept the loss
Accepting your loss may take some time, but you may find ways to help you get there quicker with the end goal in mind. You might feel like you’ve been through the other four stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, and depression) multiple times. Don’t expect to get to the acceptance stage in your grief overnight.
It helps when you take the grieving process slowly while also recognizing that your loss is permanent. Accepting that nothing in life will ever be the same again enables you to recover from your loss sooner.
2. Surround yourself with supportive people
Everyone could use some help from others from time to time, especially after suffering a significant loss. Try to maintain an open relationship with others even when you don’t feel like seeing or talking to anyone.
It’s okay to let others know that you don’t feel up to socializing or making good company. But, while doing so, remember to express your need for love, comfort, and support as you try to make sense of your loss.
3. Forgive yourself
Coping with the death of an adult child, for example, may leave you feeling guilty for not having done enough to prevent their death or for being too strict on them growing up. Whatever the case may be, allow yourself forgiveness and acceptance that not everything is within your control.
Try to gain a different perspective on their death so that you can alleviate some of the responsibility you may be feeling.
4. Seek outside help
As you begin to process your loss, you may benefit from the support of others who've suffered a similar tragedy.
Support groups are available online to offer comfort as you share your experience with others who have been there. They can help you with ways that have worked for them to get past the pain and suffering of a similar loss.
How to Help Loved Ones Deal With Tragedy or Tragic Loss
In difficult situations, providing comfort during tragedy to loved ones may seem impossible. Finding the right words to say can elude even the most well-intentioned people. Words of compassion and empathy often seem inadequate and therefore unhelpful. You may want to comfort your loved one in a way that helps and doesn't intentionally injure them, but you don't know how to do it or what to say.
How do you help loved ones face tragedy or tragic loss when you feel clueless about how to do it? The following tips may help you help others needing comfort and support.
5. Be present
Your presence is one of the best ways you can support a loved one going through a tragedy or who has suffered a loss. Even when you don't know what to say or what you can do to help, being there for them is often more important than any words you can say.
Try to remain present and available to your loved ones in the days and weeks following their loss. Continue with quick visits to check in on them, bring them food, or call and text them in the weeks following to remind them that you're there and available to support them.
6. Avoid meaningless clichés
When expressing your love and support to a loved one faced with tragedy, avoid saying things that are meaningless or that may inadvertently be hurtful. If you don't know what to say, say something simple and direct like, "I’m sorry for your loss."
Keeping it simple and straightforward lets your loved one know that you acknowledge their loss and support them through their grief. You can tailor your words to their situation to let them know that you're attentive and sympathize with them. Consider adding something personal to them or saying their loved one's name who has died.
7. Be compassionate and nonjudgmental
Being supportive to someone facing tragedy may sometimes feel frustrating when the person you're trying to help is apathetic or unresponsive to your efforts. You may run out of things to say or do before ever eliciting a response from them. Not everyone dealing with grief is open to receiving support, especially when they've recently suffered a significant loss.
Resist making this about you and continue to communicate your support to your loved one. They may not be in a good place mentally and emotionally to accept any help right away. Give them time to process their loss and leave the door open for whenever they’re ready.
8. Handle phone calls and social media
You may want to help your loved one make the initial phone calls to family members and friends advising them of their loss. Follow up with announcing the arrangements and giving further information about time and place.
Helping to get this information out is one way you can help. Offer to contact, coordinate, and control the onslaught of phone calls, text messages, and social media inquiries that'll come pouring in. Communicating with too many people after a tragedy can be overwhelming for someone dealing with a loss.
9. Let them share their story
When people who've experienced loss and tragedy are allowed to share their stories, it brings them immense comfort as they process their loss. You can support your loved ones by recognizing and relating to their pain. Listening to them as they share the details of their loss will help them feel connected to you and let them know that you acknowledge their sorrow.
You don't have to be a trained professional to offer care and support to your loved one. All you have to do is be willing to listen to them as often as they feel the need to retell their story. A bereaved person may need to repeat their store to others repeatedly until their loss starts to sink in. Be prepared to listen to the retelling of the same details as long as it takes your loved one to move through their grief.
What Can Life Look Like After a Tragedy?
Grief is very complicated. Everyone will have a unique experience and come out of it differently. The initial stages of grief may last from three to six months for some and last well over a year for others. Overall, it may take years to process the tragedy and loss to accept it and come out from underneath it finally. How one recovers from their loss is entirely an individual process. The following are some ways to move forward after a loss.
Recovering from tragedy
A person who's suffered a traumatic loss will suffer through many cycles of grief as they work toward healing from it. They will have to deal with survivor's guilt in some instances and learn how to reconnect with a loved one after tragedy whom they may have ostracized.
Regardless of the vastness of their loss, recovering from a significant loss can tend to be a long and winding road for many. There'll be many pitfalls along the way, and only love and compassion can help make the road less treacherous.
Finding or rediscovering purpose
Finding new meaning in your life after loss is an essential part of your grief journey. While everyone experiences grief differently, suffering a tragic loss usually causes an intense grief reaction in anyone. You may feel that you're incapable of moving forward in life, losing your sense of self. Life's experiences may also leave you feeling unsure of life's meaning and your sense of purpose.
Your grief will lessen in time, and the painful emotions you're now experiencing will also fade, giving way to a clearer way of thinking. Give yourself time to reach a level of less grief before determining where to go from here.
Coping with Tragedy
There is no right answer on how to best cope with a significant loss or tragedy. Only time and experience will show you the best path for you or your loved ones. No one is born knowing how to deal with tragedy. Taking your grief one day at a time and being flexible, forgiving, and resilient are all helpful in seeing you through even the most challenging of life’s experiences.