Last year we were all left shocked at the countless losses, changes and tragedies that occurred in our world. It was an emotional roller-coaster from deaths (see the full list of 151 notable deaths in 2016 as reported by CBS Sunday Morning), to global events and even election results. 2016 was a year full of unpredictability and 2017 is starting to begin on the same note.
This past Friday in Fort Lauderdale, five people were killed in a shooting and several others were injured. Yet another incident that exemplifies how erratic life can be.
So how do we cope and begin healing in lieu of these random occurrences? It’s easy, we simply need to start talking. Tragic events can’t be a hashtag for a day and glanced over. Sincere dialogue about pain stimulates a deep human connection which as a result, brings about unity.
Anderson Cooper said in an interview where he was speaking about his brother's suicide that, “One of the difficult things about grief is we live in a society where it’s difficult to bring grief up, it makes people feel awkward.”
But why is that? Well, I believe it’s because we are expected to suppress our emotional distress, when instead we should be connecting through these feelings. In another interview Cooper says, “Dealing with grief, dealing with loss-- there is power in hearing how other people have dealt with it and power in hearing how other people have faced it and live with it.”
That’s exactly right, Anderson! Talking about life’s curve balls is the antidote to repressed pain!
So as we move through this year of unexpected events, don't bottle up - open up! Try these…
1. Call on a friend or loved one. Text, call or chat over a meal or drink. Texting is a great way to get the pain off your chest without the vulnerability of face to face interaction. But truly, an in person connection can be the most liberating, and it’s definitely better with food and/or drink. Brunch, dinner…. coffee, wine… whatever your flare, enjoy it with someone who you feel safe being completely open with.
(Friend Tip: When you asked to be a listening ear, don’t try to “fix” their problems. Be an active listener and a good outlet for them to embrace their complex emotions.)
2. Find a life coach or counselor. It doesn't matter which profession you choose, what matters is your connection with the individual and their supportive and progressive guidance to healing. Find someone who uses strategic exercises to build up your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well being.
3. Become an advocate for your adversity. As Anderson said, there is power in hearing how other people overcome their challenges. Every pair of eyes reading this article has either experienced a major loss or change, or knows someone who has, and if not – you will. We should share our experiences to help other know they aren't alone, to give hope to overcome challenges, and to start this much needed movement of healing in our world.
Here's the question to consider: What can we do better in this upcoming year of inevitable events?
And here's the answer: We need to encourage psychologically safe environments at home, work, school etc… We do this by talking about our complex emotions: sadness, fear, hurt; that way we can work through them with healthy, focused and unified approaches. We must also lay down our judgement and expectations of how we expect others to grieve and instead embrace them where they are.
The decisions we make today will shape our destiny, so let's proactively address life's setbacks to minimize additional pain or other losses.
(written January 9, 2017)