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Strategies For Adapting To Life After Tragedy
by Dr. Karen Wolfe

"Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity."
-- Hippocrates
    As we struggle with our own personal emotions through this crisis, I have been reminded about the wonderful work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her work with death and dying.

    We have had deaths this week of untold proportions. Of innocent people as well as the symbolic death of our sense of freedom as we knew it. Death of our innocence and any sense of immortality that we all unconsciously cling to.

    The post-disaster period is a time of reassessment, of trying to fit the pieces of your old life into a new way of living. But absorbing the full force of these changes can take time. This is perhaps the biggest message to us.

    Elizabeth Kubler- Ross identified specific coping strategies that people use when faced with incredible loss and death. We can use these now to help us move through this post-disaster phase.
    1. Stage 1 – Shock, Disbelief And Denial
      Denial is a very real coping strategy when faced with a threatening situation. It is the mind’s way of protecting us from emotional overload. Denial allows us to absorb painful information in tolerable doses so that we continue to function at a relatively normal pace. It is, by definition, a short-term solution. The first few days after the twin towers went down, people were still not able to believe they were gone.
    2. Stage 2 – Anger
      Many people become consumed with this stage. We have already started to hear the words revenge, attack, war, get even. It is important to express anger but not to let it consume us. Many of us were brought up to believe that anger is bad. Acknowledging anger is good and has positive benefits. You can use it as fuel to solve problems, to become assertive and to get your needs met. Ignoring your anger is like burying a volcano and hoping it won’t explode.
    3. Stage 3 – Bargaining
      "Please God, let them find survivors under that wreckage"
      "If you end this all now, I promise to be a better person">
      You may find yourself bargaining or negotiating with whomever you pray to, hoping that by making a promise you will improve the situation. Bargaining gives us a sense that we can do something. We can play a role. We can help.
    4. Stage 4 – Depression
      Part of the emotional healing can involve a time when it suddenly hits you that this has happened and depression can set in. Signs of depression include a change in appetite, sleep disturbance, loss of joy, disinterest in life, thoughts of ending your life. It is very important to get professional help.
    5. Stage 5 - Integration
      Finally, a stage will come when survivors can put what has happened into perspective, and integrate the experience into their own lives. You will develop a long term strategy for dealing with life in a new way.

  2. 5 Techniques For Self Care And Regeneration
    1. Take time out for yourself - eat well, exercise ant least three times a week and get plenty of sleep
    2. Keep a journal writing can be a way of organizing your thoughts, a way to let go, and a vehicle to release your emotions.
    3. Reach out for Support share the changes in your life
    4. Celebrate life’s smaller victories and events pay more attention to life’s precious gifts that you may have once ignored: to children laughing, your loved one smiling, a full moon towering above the trees, a sunset, the smell of flowers.
    5. Learn to laugh Laughter is physically and emotionally rejuvenating. It cleanses the mind as well as the body, and it raises the level of endorphins, the body’s natural healing mechanism.
Copyright Dr. Karen Wolfe. All Rights Reserved.

Karen Wolfe is a national and international speaker, author and coach. She is the author of:
  • Medicine From the Inside Out - 7 Keys to Unlock Your Natural Healing Wisdom
  • Menopause - Renewal in Midlife,
  • From Stress to Strength
  • Successful Aging
  • A Wise Woman’s Approach to Healing and Cancer
  • Awaken Your Healer Within
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