While we were all in shock after the tragedy in Thousands Oaks, California, two more California tragedies, the Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire, flared. And here we are now, our shock even more profound.
Just back from Panama City, Florida and Hurricane Michael’s devastation, I’m a few weeks into grieving another tragic experience for a community, this time my hometown. This time my loved ones.
So I feel like sharing a bit of what I’m reflecting on right now.
These stories of tragedy are just beginning.
As any stories of tragedy fade from front page news, they’re really just beginning. The support that we can and want to give must continue.
It can come in so many ways, from the deeply personal and truly sacrificial—a shoulder to cry on, work or housing for displaced folks—to the simplest quiet acts. Like yes to a small donation in the grocery store. I had lunch with a friend today who said she gives directly to GoFundMe pages to make a fast impact.
Life is so beautiful.
I was struck over and over in Panama City by gorgeous days, shimmering blue skies and silken breezes as the backdrop to weather-related tragedy all around us. It was surreal.
And I say that taking the time for all those thoughts and feelings, rather than shutting them down, is an important part of finding our way through devastating experiences. Take some real time to reflect. Take time to feel. Everything else that seems so urgent will still be there.
In the process, in the wise words of the Dalai Lama, reflect on your own strength to carry on. On everything your own life is about. Everything you hope for.
The point is to care for yourself toward helping those around you. Your oxygen mask comes first.
When we meet real tragedy in life,
we can react in two ways—either by
losing hope and falling into
self-destructive habits, or by using
the challenge to find our inner strength.
—Dalai Lama XIV
Don’t sugarcoat. Do offer hope. And rest.
If you’re connected to anybody directly impacted by these tragedies, do empathize. And do remember to also offer encouragement. To offer hope. Your words may make a difference that you’ll never know.
Trust your instincts as you find ways to help that don’t sugarcoat what is in fact tragic, but that do align with our very human activity of carrying on. It’s what we do. We keep going.
And on dark nights, in dark times, we need rest. We all need rest. There will be days and nights when we’ll get it, days and nights when we won’t. But keep giving yourself permission for it. For that oxygen mask. Nourish yourself toward nourishing others.
As you keep your own little light burning, even in the face of tragedy, it can help brighten the way forward for others. For all of us.
— Teresa Young coaches by phone and Zoom from the Pacific Time Zone, on life, healthy longevity, and music.