Who has had enough? Had enough of all the bad news? Climatic challenges are heavy – the cyclones, droughts, bushfires, pathetic role modelling by our so-called senior politicians and community leaders, increasingly poor economic news, crime rates, suicides, domestic violence – and now Christchurch. I feel like Peter Finch in the Network movie “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore.”
Bad things happen – from little things that upset us right up to complete catastrophes. I am often asked why bad things happen – to children, families, businesses and communities and I struggle to answer. All I can say is “why shouldn’t they happen?”. By this I mean there is nothing special about me (or you) that would preclude bad things happening. The challenge is to bounce forward through them. A few tips I have learnt:
The size of the catastrophe depends on the size of your world – and that still doesn’t matter. Your life experience, not your age, will assist you in dealing with your catastrophe. I know plenty of young people who have experienced real trauma and many older people who have had a blessed life. Just remember that someone else’s catastrophe may only be a small blip on the radar for you – and vice versa. So, don’t judge.
Don’t overthink it or try to rationalise the catastrophe. It is what it is and don’t try to find meaning a deeper in the events. There are many idiots in this world who can do extremely idiotic things. End of.
Allow and accept your emotions. Whatever the event, you will have some form of emotional reaction. Don’t try and suppress them – acknowledge them, try to understand them and perhaps even sit with your feelings and allow it to flow over you. If it helps (and it usually does) talk about it. If approached by a friend who is struggling with an event, open yourself to the conversation – listen and be present. If young people and children are affected, be mindful of their reactions. It may help to assist the child to name and understand the emotions – sad, frightened etc. Let them know it is ok to be feeling these emotions as you and others are feeling the same.
If it helps, avoid media coverage – especially social media as the quality of the content may not be all that accurate and in some cases is likely to be articles of people expressing opinions that are just structured as news. There is nothing like a catastrophe to bring conspiracy theories from all types of sources. Expose yourself to it as much as you feel appropriate for you in relation to the event.
Remember that you always have a choice on how you react to a catastrophe. You can choose to have it overwhelm your life, or you can choose to use a terrible event to make your world better. There are many examples of individuals and families who have experienced the most horrendous events and have used that as a motivator to do great things in the aftermath.
Take the long view. In the middle of trauma and catastrophe, it is easy to think the world is a terrible place – and always will be. It isn’t. This world is a beautiful place where sometimes bad things happen. But it is still beautiful.
Yes, bad things happen to good people but, I also believe good things happen to good people.