What to Do When Tragedy Impacts Your Family

I still remember when a small airplane crashed across the street from where I lived when I was 14 years old. I heard the crash, then called 911 and ran to the plane. I was able to help two 20-somethings get out of the burning wreckage.

At first, I thought the young men were the only two in the plane. I soon realized two other men had been in the front – the young men’s fathers. They had been decapitated. As I was helping the young men to the curb, another Good Samaritan from the area rushed in to help. Right about that time, the plane exploded and the man received substantial burns.

Just as I had that brush with tragedy among total strangers, I also experienced it close to home. My mother died of cancer when I was nine. My father’s alcoholism took him when I was a teenager.

The details of my story may be unique to me, but my suffering is not. Everyone suffers. Everyone experiences the fallout of a world enslaved by sin and death (John 16:33).

Post-traumatic stress disorder has become well known because of its prevalence among our military service people who have fought in combat. But in fact, the majority of people who experience PTSD are everyday civilians who have endured trauma.

Most of us don’t know how to handle the stress and grief that results from tragedy. Especially in Western culture, people don’t like to talk openly about suffering. We run from it. We turn to gadgets that distract us from our pain. We often don’t consider how to navigate loss or grief until it’s upon us, which only makes the confusion of it all even worse.

Dr. Norm Wright is a traumatologist and a grief counselor. He’s written a book called When It Feels Like the Sky Is Falling: How to Find Hope In an Uncertain World. We’re discussing it on our Focus on the Family Broadcast “What to Do When Tragedy Impacts Your Family.”

Dr. Wright has endured his share of suffering and grief, too. He’s lost two of his children, and his wife to a long battle with brain cancer. Still, he says, there is hope. Jesus is our great physician. He’s the doctor of our soul. When we go through tragedy and suffer grief, the Lord can come alongside us and restore our hearts to new life.

In Chinese, the word for crisis consists of two symbols. The first is for danger. The second is for opportunity. Our own English word for crisis is based on a Greek word which means “to decide.” Among other things, those words indicate that we have more power to choose healing when we’re grieving than we often assume.

Dr. Wright says that we can choose to become a survivor by:

  • Maintaining a positive attitude.
  • Getting help.
  • Being responsible.
  • Being adaptable.
  • Finding a new dream.

Grief is a lifetime process. In the depths of your grief, you may say, “I don’t think I can handle this.” The hope is to get to a place where you can say, “I can learn how to handle this. I can recover.”

We’ll help you learn how. Join us for our conversation with Dr. Wright on your local radio station, online, on Apple Podcasts, via Google Podcasts, or on our free phone app.

If you’ve suffered loss and brokenness and would like to speak with a counselor, get in touch with us. Our counseling team can talk to you, then they can refer you to one of the many counselors in our network around the country. Give us a call at 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459).

Finally, I’d like to extend an invitation for you to become a special partner with us through our monthly “Friends of Focus on the Family” program. When you do, I’ll send you a copy of Dr. Wright’s book When It Feels Like the Sky Is Falling: How to Find Hope In an Uncertain World as a way of saying thank you for touching others with the love of Christ. To make your pledge, or for more information, visit our website.

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Jim Daly

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