Some have described the feeling of a crisis as being hit head-on by a massive tidal wave, tumbling endlessly under dark waters, gasping frantically for air, and then being washed upon the shore absolutely beaten up and exhausted. Just watching the news today feels a lot like that.
It’s difficult not to feel hopeless as one tragedy after another continues to impact people all around the world. But crisis does not need to result in feeling hopeless forever, there can be real positive change in the recovery process. And the first step in gaining hope is to understand that we are “survivors” and not “victims” of disaster. This change in language produces a change in one’s mindset and can help reframe a tragic experience. The label “victim” insinuates that a person has little control over what happened, whereas being called a “survivor” implies agency. Although a crisis can be unexpected and seem out of control, we can be active in our survival. You are capable of thriving after a traumatic event if you think about your experiences as an opportunity for resilience and growth.
People have shown remarkable growth, even amidst disaster, by focusing on resilience and keeping strong ties with their community. The word resilience refers to the capacity to recover quickly. People who are resilient create meaning of their experiences, even tragic experiences, and come back stronger after a disaster by discovering a new sense of purpose. In other words, they don’t allow tragedy to define their lives, instead they strive to create a better future. Now, you may be thinking that it’s completely impossible for one person to do all that alone, and you’re absolutely right.
Resilient individuals seek support from their communities, families, friends, and other survivors. There is strength in asking for help and leaning on the support of others when life becomes overwhelming. Survivors of disaster have taught us that connecting with people who have shared experiences also helps to remove feelings of isolation by create unity. It is healthy to say, “HEY! I need help!” and it’s also healthy to say “Do you need my help?” A balance of taking care of your needs while being generous in helping others is an important factor in recovering from a life storm. As much as we hate the aftermath of complete disaster, surviving a crisis is possible. Being agents of positive change and growth is possible. Creating meaning out of tragedy is possible. And best of all, gaining a sense of hope for the future is possible.