October 26, 2021

Tragedy Begins Where Crisis Ends

“I’m sorry, you are too late, we can’t print your boarding passes”

“But there is still 20 minutes before the plane takes off!”

“It’s policy, There’s nothing I can do”

“okay… well, when is the next flight out? We have class in the morning!”


Tomorrow. 24 hours from where we were. As the nice but firm airport worker broke the news, my college roommate crumpled to the floor sobbing {a la Scarlet O’Hara}, except that the tears were very justified and very, very real. We were stranded. Not only were we stranded, but we were stranded in no-where’s-ville France, 45 minutes outside of Paris, with no place to stay overnight. And to top it off, we had just watched the girls who made us miss our plane sprint through security with their perfectly pre-printed boarding passes waving in the air. I unceremoniously dragged my roommate into a one-person bathroom, told her to stay there until she could pull it together, and began wracking my brains as to what in the world we were going to do.

Crisis. If there is one thing that I know about myself, it’s that I am good in a crisis. If there was an award for “best ability to spring into action when everyone else is melting down” I would win it hands down. I can shut off emotion, I can make a game plan, I can prioritize needs, and I can take action. All of these things make me perform well in a crisis; but what happens once the immediate danger has passed? THAT is a good question and quite a different story.

Crisis is very different from tragedy. Crisis is intense but short term. Crisis is fixable by action. Crisis is the pre-curser to the real devastation – tragedy. For the past two months, not a week has gone by that has not been fraught with tragedy of the bone-deep, heart-wrenching, soul-crushing kind; the kind of tragedy that makes even the most faithful believer question God’s goodness to His children. Family members, close friends, co-workers, acquaintances, no one has been immune. Crisis I’m good with, crisis I’m comfortable with, but tragedy? The part that comes after the shock and adrenalin that have carried the afflicted through is over and truth and a new reality begin to set in? That part makes me want to curl into the fetal position.

As a licensed counselor, I know all kinds of tools and exercises to help people process the terrible things that have happened to them. As a human, I know that these tips and tricks can often feel hollow to those in the thick of being wrecked by grief. So then what is left to do for loved ones who are waste deep in one of the hardest parts of their life? Plenty.

  1. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have but how often do we actually utilize it? How many times have you said “I’ll be praying for you” and 10 hours later you completely forget about that person and never take time to really pray for them. And I’m not talking about this kind of prayer: “God, please be with ______ and help her to get what she needs” No, no, that’s not the kind of prayer I’m talking about at all. I’m talking about honest, loud, down on your face, begging God until the sun comes up, intercessory warrior kind of prayer. THAT kind of prayer holds more power than any intervention any counselor could ever dream up.
  1. Be there. It’s simple, just be there. Most people forget about the hurting person once the immediate danger has passed; it’s not purposeful, it just happens. When people are devastated, they are primed to feel alone. This loneliness can be exacerbated by friends and family going back to regular life soon after the tragic event. Don’t forget about the grieving; even though you have moved on, it may be an extraordinarily long time until they are able to. Make it a point to care for those people, don’t just send a text once a week, find out what their needs are and fill them. Make a week’s worth of meals, clean their house, take their children for the day, or sit on the floor with their head in your lap while they cry. Whatever it takes, be there, again and again, for as long as is necessary.
  1. Encourage good self-care. Devastated people, more often than not, forget how to take care of themselves. Self-care is critically important for long-term recovery. Self-care can mean many things: good nutrition, exercise, personal hygiene, sleep, connecting with people, counseling, supplements, even medication. Anyone can help with the majority of that list, and if professional help seems appropriate, encourage them to seek it out. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing shameful about getting professional help when the circumstance warrants it. Whatever you do, please do not look at someone who hasn’t been able to get out of bed for 3 weeks and tell them that their depression will lift if they just pray more. I firmly believe in the power of prayer. I also firmly believe that God heals in many ways and sometimes it can be through psycho-pharmaceuticals. Be an encourager, not a shamer.

Tragedy. It is a much bigger beast than crisis. If you get nothing else from this blog post it is please, please, pretty please, do not forget about the hurting people in your life who are going through tragedy. Pray for them, be there for them, and encourage them. You have no idea how powerfully you can impact a grieving person’s life by doing those three seemingly simple things.

And for anyone who is wondering, we did make it home to Spain the following day. We took a bus back into Paris, called our parents to wire us some money to buy another plane ticket, wandered around for a good portion of the night until finally finding a vacant hotel room {we didn’t tell our parents about this part}, and got to the airport 3 hours early the next day.

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