How to cope with catastrophic loss

Mental Health and Wellness
How to cope with catastrophic loss

A catastrophic event in your life may leave you feeling helpless, hopeless and without direction. Here are some steps that are important throughout the stages of healing.

  • Discuss the tragedy. Telling and re-telling the story of what just happened to you can give you a way to get out all of your emotions, thoughts and analyses of the catastrophe. Friends and family members can be a great support system to “let out” what has occurred in your life. This step helps you organize your thoughts and begin dealing with pain, shock and grief. In beginning with this step, you are not “playing a victim,” but are telling your story of how you have been a recipient of a victimizing event.
  • Recognize that your life has changed. The hardest part of experiencing a trauma is knowing that your life is no longer what it once was.  The lens of your reality has been shattered. You have a choice at this point to dwell on the things that you have lost from the catastrophe or focus on the things that you can work towards obtaining again and what you still possess today.  A major healing agent is being able to change your perception of your new life. For example, an unexpected job loss can be a major hit for a family. However, you can identify that the job was a major part of your life, but now you have time to pursue a career that you may enjoy more than the one you lost. This shift in perception can help you stay positive despite the loss.
  • See what is still the same. Recognize what you still have despite the catastrophe. No matter what you have overcome, you still have yourself.  Personal identity is especially important during a difficult time to help you stay grounded and secure. Keeping your personal qualities and virtues in the forefront of your mind can help you not fall deeper into an emotional crisis.
  • Acceptance. Acceptance means realizing that destruction around you does not have to leave its permanent mark. You can understand that this calamity impacted your life greatly but does not define who you are as a person. When the storms of your life are moving in, you can be prepared with your umbrella of reason. Acceptance is not forgetting the catastrophe. It means recognizing that without the hardship that occurred, you would not be the strong "rock" that you are today.