Days after a 7.0 earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti, family members battled for a proper burial of their loved ones. Time and again, tragedy followed moments of hope. Yet, despite the deaths and destruction, the people struggled to survive. And hundreds took to the streets, singing and chanting amid huge mounds of rubble – a clear sign of the resilience of the human spirit.
While not in such desperate circumstances, perhaps you too have suffered the death of a loved one. Although you may want the pain to go away, in order to heal you must experience the feelings of loss. First, try to create an inner resource that calms you. Imagine a caring person in your life who comforts you when you’re hurting – you don’t have to be totally alone with these feelings.
If your life seems unnaturally quiet, seek out the support of family and friends as you move into this next part of your life. Take your time and don’t be rushed by others. You know yourself best – and eventually you’ll, once again, do the things you love. In the meantime, here are some ideas that can help you begin to heal:
1. Free yourself from a negative outlook. Although you can’t change what has happened, you can have some control over how you handle it. Face your uncertainty with the most positive attitude you can muster. You may be feeling angry, sad or afraid of what is to come. Recognize that your reactions are normal and common. Face them directly as you work through your feelings.
2. Make a public commitment to those who want to see you do well. Tell others about your intentions and create a strong reality that will keep you motivated. Re-establish routine in your life, both at work and with family. Set new long range goals and short term objectives. Commit to a process of change, and then move forward, one small step at a time.
3. Primarily rely on your own instincts. Believe in what you’re doing to heal. Maintain firm boundaries to protect yourself and talk honestly about how you feel. Realize your hidden internal strength as you trust yourself and look inside for answers. Emotional discomfort can become an opportunity – it serves as an invitation to grow.
4. Take control of what is within your reach. Have the wisdom to know the difference between what you can manage and what you can’t. You can keep your emotions in check by tuning in to what is best for you. And recognize that you can get support from family, friends, your spiritual community, a therapist or a bereavement group. You don’t have to do it all alone – make the decision to ask for help whenever you need it.
5. Solitude itself provides a chance to emotionally revitalize. Rejuvenate your spirits with whatever works – listen to music that stirs your soul or curl up with a book that engages your fantasies. Work to feel more positive through meditation or yoga practice. Every night, before you go to bed, write affirmations about what is still good in your life.
6. Increase your capacity to be resilient. It’s not easy to maintain your sense of optimism under these circumstances. But you can recover after a crisis or still thrive in the face of adversity. Call on your faith or spirituality. Develop strategies to manage stress and release tension through relaxation exercises. You may find that you have deeper reserves of courage than you realize.
The world is responding to the havoc the Haitian earthquake has created – even a group of homeless people in Philadelphia has donated goods to the homeless of Haiti. Although wounded children call for missing parents, there is still singing well into the night in large tent camps that people now call home. Doctors are delivering babies, orphans are joining their new families in the United States, supplies and donations are still pouring in and volunteers are doing the best they can in difficult circumstances.
Paraphrasing former President Bill Clinton, in order for the recovery in Haiti to continue, we need to stay involved in the long run. Take his advice about your own recovery. Blessings can come out of tragedies. Practice generativity and you will continue to heal as you honor your memories. Give back to the community by volunteering for a cause that was important to your loved one. Find your spirit of idealism – reach out to someone who is alone or make a contribution to those less fortunate. Change society for the better and you’ll gradually transform yourself.
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