At 4 PM on some idle Tuesday, as the Sunscreen song puts it, some earth-ending shift has taken place, and those parties to it are vanquished to another psychological location—barely known to life; a circumstance of utter hellishness. They have, or better put, are, enduring a tragedy.
It was something possibly avoidable; something unpredictable; something much too painful to contemplate, then or now. The loss is all of these and so much more.
How do we make sense of such a senseless tragedy?
Well, as we may predict, there is no easy answer to that question, but it helps to understand all sorts of responses to tragedy could be expected.
Responses To Tragedy – Like Facets On A Diamond
Reading a News report on social media recently, I was amazed at the array of different responses to the tragedy that had been reported on. There were responses of condemnation, sympathy, horror, empathy, bewilderment, and sadness, among many more.
I found it is normal for some people to want to blame others, whilst it is equally normal for others to shelve all thought of blame. These latter ones are incredulous regarding those who would blame an innocent party for any part in such tragedy.
Is any single response to a tragedy wrong? If we may answer “Yes” to that we may quickly polarise away from the tragedy, itself. For we may be guilty of judging another’s response and, suddenly, there is little room for supporting those most affected. Then, in the presence of bickering they are alone. But, responses of conflict are just as equally normal as any other response!
There are as many valid responses to tragedy as there are people who might develop such responses.
Still, ours is not to judge, just to support if we can.
Positioned To Make Sense Of Senselessness
When numbness has taken its part in people’s lives, emotions prevailing harshly to the point of total immersion in a soul’s sense of chaos, how might we position ourselves to make sense (even if that were possible) of the senselessness, in order to help?
þ We should not feel guilty for thanking God that it’s not us. Other people’s losses should make us more thankful—within us—for the things we don’t have.
þ Accepting life throws its curve balls with frenetic unpredictability helps. No one can possibly be prepared for tragic news. Living in the moment will be hard enough. Acceptance of rollercoaster emotions, as best we can, is the key, as is accepting any and all responses of others without judgment or condemnation.
þ Practical assistance is always richly needed where words of advice seldom are. We ought to always open our ears, resourcefulness, and minds for prayer and ideas to help, rather than open our mouths with plastic platitudes or opinions—or contribute to social media discussion (unless it could be sure to help).
þ Whilst tragedies are often preventable, especially from the aspect of hindsight, our human nature dictates that human-caused tragedies have always happened and will always happen—to someone; they can and do, indeed, happen to us. What has happened has happened. Having an opinion is venturing into the irrelevant. Thought and action for how we may assist, however, is relevant.
Doing these things, and more, can only assist us in helping where we can.
Making sense of a senseless tragedy may be an impossible task, yet there are many good things we can do to make as much sense of the situation as we can. Discerning others’ needs is a good starting point, as is putting away opinions, and sticking with what is relevant. Tragedies require practical responses.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.