ISSUE 87 ISSN 1712-468

Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy. 

F. Scott Fitzgerald
US Novelist

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This Week´s Inspiration

What to Do when Tragedy Strikes! 

Tragedy: A disastrous event, especially one involving distressing loss or injury to life; a tragic aspect or element; drama where the main persons are brought to ruin or suffer extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances

A serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident; an emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis; an event or situation that causes great distress and disruption

If we live long enough, most of us will experience a tragedy and it will cause some level of trauma.

I am just as challenged in dealing with tragedy as you are, nor am I immune to the related trauma. Unfortunately, I speak with some experience on the subject. Here is one of my stories.

It was Monday December 13, 1982. In preparation for Christmas, I headed off to the mall with my brother. While I was away shopping, the police arrived at my home. They asked my parents where I was, saying it was very important that they meet with me ASAP. My parents asked what was it about. The police simply stated they needed me to go to the police station immediately upon my return. (That was in the days before cell phones.)

Needless to say, my parents were very concerned about why the police wanted to see their son and why they would not disclose the reason for their visit. When I arrived back, my parents literally ran from their home to my car to tell me about the police request. I was just as bewildered as they were.

As I opened the police station door, my emotions were barely in check. I was desperately trying to figure what this could be about. Nothing made sense. As the officers escorted me downstairs to an interrogation room, I used humor to relieve the tension. 

It was clear that the stern-faced officers did not appreciate my attempts at levity. I had never experienced such intense emotion as the two officers displayed that day. I was scared.  

The interrogation room had four brick walls, a table, and three simple chairs. As the interview began, the officers asked me about my relationship with a girl named Carol. Carol had been my high school girlfriend and my grad date. Since she had returned from college, we were dating again, progressing toward a “steady” status. 

After a very long and uncomfortable moment of silence, one of the officers leaned toward me, stopping just a foot from my face. “Ken,” he said, “Carol was brutally beaten and murdered last night.” I was either the last or the second-last person to talk with her before she died. 

During a sexual advance gone wrong, the janitor at her place of work had beaten her to death. He was caught several weeks later. Only 22, Carol was projected to be one of the first women combat pilots in the Canadian military. 

Everything in me wanted to deny that this event had happened, but it had. For a very long time, I felt guilty that I was not there to protect Carol. I admit that even now, some of my ability to fully engage emotionally has been forever lost. 

Nothing can prepare you for this type of trauma. 

There are thousands of similar stories happening every day around the world. Even under such terrible emotional stress, we all have a choice. 

  • One is to let the tragedy overtake us at all levels, which creates yet another tragedy.
  • The other is to turn tragedy into something greater than the event itself. 

Here are some examples.

  • One of my friends was killed in a car accident at age 16. The teenager’s mother never got over it. Her son’s room was the same 5 years later as it had been the day he died. Her grief traumatized her to the point that she abandoned her other son, who 10 years later committed suicide.
  • One dad’s 7-year-old son was kidnapped and murdered by a sexual offender. John Walsh pushed through his grief to create the America’s Most Wanted TV show. 
  • An athletic young teenager was paralyzed in a traffic accident. He could have felt sorry for himself and let his life pass him by. Instead, he chose to wheel around the world in the Man in Motion tour. Rick Hansen is a Canadian hero.
  • A local man’s 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver. He dedicated his life to changing the laws that had let the offender off with just 16 months in jail. A new law that increases sentences for drunk drivers is now on the books.
  • In a freak accident, a teenager drove over his friend, killing him. In spite of their pain, the parents of the deceased teen forgave the boy. In fact, a few years later, after the boy lost his mom and dad, the parents adopted the boy as their own.

The intent of this ezine is not to make light of the impact that tragedy can have on any of us or on the trauma that naturally follows. I want my words to encourage you that the human spirit is resilient and at its best when it is serving others.

In the Action Steps below, I will outline strategies and thoughts on how to deal with tragedy.

One of life’s greatest disasters is individuals who are not living their purpose or contributing at the highest level that they could. To help you on your journey to fulfillment, I am recommending CRG resources. My Source Experience Journal™ is my new 88-page book and journal that will take you on a personal journey of discovery, enlightenment, and affirmation. As building blocks, I also suggest the Values Preference Indicator, Self-Worth Inventory, Stress Indicator and Health Planner, and the Personal Style Indicator

I don't want to sound Pollyannaish, but I hope that out of a tragedy like this, something good will come. I hope we understand we're one family.

Madeleine Albright
Making Sense of the Unimaginable
Author and US Diplomat 

This Week´s Action Steps

What to Do When Tragedy Strikes You!

  1. Tragedy can and does happen to people every day around the globe. Don’t think you are the only one.
  2. When you experience tragedy, several stages of emotions will occur—including denial, anger, hatred, sadness, depression, emptiness, cynicism, guilt, and hopelessness. Allow yourself to go through the process. After Carol’s murder I went through all the above emotions at some time or another. Allow yourself to go through these emotions because it is part of your healing and recovery.
  3. One of the most difficult things you can do is forgive the person who has caused your pain. I could write an entire ezine on forgiveness. We forgive others to free us from debilitating negative emotions, not to condone their actions.
  4. If you let it, tragedy can create a second tragedy—as in the situation with my friend’s mother. Please don’t let this happen to you or others. At some point, you must move on. That doesn’t mean that you forget or that you have finished experiencing every emotion, but that you are taking steps forward—no matter how small.
  5. Whenever possible, turn tragedy into triumph. Get out of yourself and look at how you can contribute. Not everyone will start a TV show, but there is a cause or someone somewhere who can benefit from your help.
  6. Look for support from others who have had similar experiences. There are many groups and organizations for every type of trauma. If not, perhaps you are being called to start one.
  7. As the quote at the very start of this article states, show me a hero and I’ll show you a story of tragedy.
  8. Many success stories have come about directly from tragedy. How many more people would have experienced trauma if John Walsh had not pushed to have hundreds of the most-wanted fugitives taken off the streets?
  9. I feel that one of the greatest tragedies today is individuals not living their purpose. To help you, I encourage you to engage my new book My Source Experience Journal™A Personal Discovery Process for Those Who Want to Lead a Passionate and Fulfilling Life.
  10. Tragedy has been a catalyst for some of mankind’s greatest moments and achievements.

Until next time, keep Living On Purpose!.

Ken Keis

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