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Monday, November 18, 2013

When News of the Unthinkable Comes
There are moments when the thing that you know happens, but hope beyond hope never happens to you does happen. The State Police knock on the door with the news of the sudden, untimely death of a loved one. Your doctor speaks the words you never want to hear . . . a diagnosis of a terminal illness . . . an unborn child has a birth defect that will affect all of his or her life . . . a loved one only has a short time to live . . . a diagnosis of a chronic illness that will affect your day to day life. A boss says, "I'm sorry, but today is your last day. We're downsizing and we're eliminating your position." An employer calls you into her office and says the terrifying words, "Your home is on fire."

The unthinkable has happened.

What do we do in the midst of the shock . . . the pain . . . the grief? When the world feels like it is spinning wildly out of control and suddenly nothing makes sense, what do we do? How do we respond?

Know that the shock, pain, overwhelming sadness, anger, and disorientation are normal. Many times we associate grief only with the passing of someone we love, however the feelings connected with grief can apply to many situations. Events that do not involve a physical death are sometimes labeled a death event because there is a death of a relationship, a job, a home, a dream, or physical well-being. The stages (or waves as I prefer to call them, because they often come in waves) of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance - apply to both a literal death and a death event. These feelings are normal - uncomfortable and difficult, but normal.

Give yourself grace and protect yourself. It is normal to be overwhelmed and fragile in the aftermath of unthinkable news. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that come your way and to express them in ways that will not cause yourself or others harm. Writing your feelings in a journal; crying; engaging in physical activity; talking to a friend, pastor, or counselor; or listening to music are positive ways to express our emotion. When waves of anger or depression come, it is easy to allow yourself to slide into a danger zone. At times like this, getting behind the wheel of a car, being alone with weapons that can cause you harm are dangerous and it is important that you protect yourself from releasing your anger or depression in a way that can harm you. If you feel overwhelmingly sad or angry reach out for help - call a friend or a local crisis hotline for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255.

 Seek safe places and safe people. Not all people will be safe. Even well-meaning people may not be safe for you as you process what has happened. Find those people and those places where you will be loved, where people will be sensitive to your needs, where you will be sheltered from unsafe people. Look for people who will accept you where you are, help you process what's happening to you, and who are willing to help keep you safe (even from yourself if need be). If you do not have these people in your life, a local support group or faith community may be able to provide these safe people.

Cling to the God of all comfort. In the midst of grief, God is with us. He is there to comfort, strengthen, and support. He even understands if we are angry with Him. He does not promise to take away all the difficulties and pain we face in a broken world, but He does promise to give us the strength to make it through them.

If you have faced a time when unthinkable news has come, 
what did you do to help yourself through that time?

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