During and after tragedy, it is only natural to experience sorrow, grief, fear, and anger. We cry out to God “Why?” and seek comfort and often seek distraction. These hard emotions are important, natural, and expected – but they are uncomfortable. We can expect sorrow and grief in life, but how do we handle it?
Recognize and Accept
There is value in simply recognizing the emotion for what it is. Label the experience and the emotion. Accept sorrow and grief as appropriate response to a tragedy, big or small. Just a few days ago, 50+ people were killed in Las Vegas, Nevada. Label this for what it is: murder. Putting words to an experience helps us to create meaning. This was an evil, horrific event. We feel emotions – anger, shock, grief. Trying to hide or avoid the hard emotions will only make it harder to deal with them and move on.
Seek Healthy Comfort
Take note of who and what you turn to for comfort and help. God wants us to turn to Him, to pray and fast and open our Bibles, and to turn to our neighbors to share relationship and comfort. Psalm 42 is a beautiful, heart-wrenching example. We cry, we remember better times, and our souls are downcast, and we may not feel God’s presence or answer quickly. That is okay, but it’s not easy. What did the disciples do when their Lord Jesus was crucified? They gathered together. The 24th chapter of Luke’s gospel shows us the resurrection of Jesus and how He encountered his followers – and none of them were alone when He went to them. They were with family and friends. It may be tempting to seek distraction in television, busyness, alcohol, fighting, or sleeping. But healthy relationship – with God and with our neighbors – brings healthy comfort.
Hard emotions are uncomfortable, painful, and difficult to deal with. You or your loved ones may want to move on quickly, to cry, grieve, and then get back to “regular life.” Is this realistic? In the face of tragedy and sorrow, pain lingers. This is okay and natural, but it’s hard. Allow yourself time to rest, cry, pray, and wrestle with God. If your loved ones are struggling, be there for them. Words are not usually necessary, but love and care is critical.
Time does not heal all wounds. A broken arm will not magically re-set itself, but needs to be re-set (which is often painful) and then the time in a cast or sling heals the arm. Emotional wounds are the same. Ignoring the emotion, pushing it away, or bottling it up will not heal the wound. But once we recognize it, accept it, and allow ourselves to be comforted, the wound is “re-set” and Jesus can bring deeper and longer healing over time.