5 Strategies for Coping with Tragedy from Afar

In our last post, we mentioned that one of the benefits of working together (read: spending all our time together) is that we are available all the time to support one another. It couldn’t be more true as yesterday, I woke up to the news that my best friend (more like sister) of 28 years lost her battle to cancer after a 3 year struggle. As usual, I went to work, 5,700 miles away from where my family and friends are gathered to mourn this tragic loss, and the only thing that got me through the work day was having my husband by my side. Like a zombie, I’m still trying to get through this difficult time, away from home, by doing the following:

1. Stay Busy

It may not be the healthiest of strategies for coping with loss, but I believe that if we are far away from home when tragedy strikes, we must find a balance between grieving and moving on. Staying busy will help us move forward when all we want to do is hibernate. A few short hours into this grieving process, I had already gotten dolled up for work (this served as a distraction as it is not part of my normal routine!); took the long way to work; had a cup of hot chocolate in the sun on the balcony at work; and most importantly, I worked! I had a few breakdowns at work (it was a long day), but seeing our lovely students helped me smile as they are such a bright part of my life here in Turkey.

2. Give Permission to Feel

Sometimes we think we have to be strong for others, or must avoid our feelings in order to survive. When you are far from home, it is easy to hide from the truth and pretend like nothing is wrong. It is better to deal with it, head on, than to prolong your true feelings. In the end, the feelings will surface. Better now than later. So allowing yourself to grieve is an extremely important and intentional act.

3. Reflect on the Good Times

Luckily, with the presence of technology, reflecting on the good times is much easier than even 10 years ago. I am able to watch videos/see pictures of my dear friend as well as communicate with family and friends back home. This reflection is a positive way to grieve and thankfully, technology makes it possible for me to participate in our collective grieving process while so far from home.

NOTE: I am so grateful to be able to read all the warm, loving comments on Facebook posted by all who were positively impacted by my friend.

4. Forget All the Rules

As most grownups do, we have set up some rules about how we live our life, use our money, spend our time and countless other things. When I”m living abroad, I restrict myself from some of my favorite things in order to save money. Well now is not the time to follow those rules. Now is the time to find comfort in whatever way you can. If it means spending $50.00 on sushi, go for it. If it means booking a $200.00 ticket to a neighboring city where your favorite band is playing, just do it. If it will make you feel better, you should allow yourself to do it.

DISCLAIMER: No drugs, excessive amounts of alcohol or other dangerous behaviors, please! Forget the rules within reason, of course.

The point is, we have rules for a reason…but sometimes (like these times) its okay to break the rule. It’s better to break a rule than to be broken yourself.

5. Be Patient

Finally, be patient. As with any loss, the only true healer of this deep wound is time. For me, it’s only 24 hours into many days of grieving. Maybe it will take days before I can control the tears. Maybe it will take weeks, months or even years. It really doesn’t matter. The aim is that I will do what I need to do to personally cope with this difficult situation.

YOUR TURN: What are your tips for coping with tragedy from afar?

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2 thoughts on “5 Strategies for Coping with Tragedy from Afar

    1. Thanks, Alice! We were very sorry to have missed the opportunity to celebrate her life with so many others who loved her. I’m glad you were able to be there. Hope you’re well and please send my regards to Steve! – P

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