Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Four Easy Steps

Yesterday a friend was sad because her father had died in a sudden and catastophic aneurysm. I've known people who died, so she called me in for advice. She wanted me to fix her.
I would have loved that, but there are not simple answers.

However I've been asked this question more than once--so here is my best shot:
Four Easy Steps to Dismantle the Crazy:
1) Write down a list of everything important that you know is true. I had the ironically beneficial situation of an AP Reporter asking for comment within seconds of learning my folks were dead. My response "God is still God and I'm still not" was no theological masterpiece but it laid the groundwork for me not turning into a wack-job. Make a list of 5 true things, for five days live exclusively from that list. You are in about seven types of pain right now and you can't live from emotions or you'll be literally fetal.
2) During tragedy, particularly if it involves parent-type figures your brain is backpeddling in spite of you and it is dying to settle in at about age seven. You will have a temptation to think of your parent/guardian/friend as you did when you were little. Resist that temptation in every way possible. He's not daddy this week, because daddy had a little kid and you can't be a little kid right now.
3) Don't ditch humanity. In other words tragedy tends to do one of three things: 1)Make people better; 2) make people worse; 3)make people begin to fake life. Door #1 is the best--you allow God to surgically remove weakness, fight hard that justic and redemption become the theme of the sad story you're in, and then rest for some time to heal. If you follow route #2 and become a nut job hopefully enough people love you that you can get out of that and eventually become better. Door #3 will kill you. . If you truly just fake it and invent a pretend version of you that will do life in your place than you died in the tragedy too.
4) There will be a story. Whether it's a story of national significance (e.g. 911) a story that gets picked up because it's a slow news week (e.g Tornado in Cincinnati) or a story that only personal friends know about this story will exist in your personal narrative. The main character is God. The supporting role is you. Your job is to make sure the story is not just sadness, but rather hope in despair. There will be a story--you write it to a larger extent than you think.

Number 5 is more nuanced so it doesn't make the big 4 list:
Don't Make a Single Excuse-- Schedule your life with time to mourn, but do NOT let "I'm sad" be an answer to any question that begins with "Why didn't you..." Becoming a victim is a waste of your time, don't try to pull that crap. If you were a POW, or Dave Pelzer than you're a victim. If not, shit happens--now go live.
This doesn't mean ignore the pain--you probably want to get counseling, you need time alone, you need to do all of the smart things that every book says, but DO NOT let the tragedy become your identity. It's a piece of the bigger story.


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