June 3, 2013

How to Handle Someone Else's Tragedy

On May 20, a tornado ravaged Moore, Oklahoma.

Just this last weekend, another horrible storm hit the Oklahoma City area.

People were killed in both storms. Homes, destroyed. Lives, forever changed.

I watched the news coverage of both storms in horror, first, because I have grandparents, other relatives, and friends in the OKC area. And second, because I was in Oklahoma during the second storm.

Thankfully, I was about two hours away from the affected area, but still I couldn't hold back the fear that the storm would come my way.

Today, I started to reflect on these feelings and something hit me: I tend to feel more horror at a tragedy when I'm personally affected by it.

There have been several tragedies in the last year: shootings, bombings, hurricanes, etc. And yet, I didn't follow the news, didn't read every last detail, didn't meditate on the whys or the loss of life in quite the same way as when me and mine were affected.

Yes, of course, I felt for the victims of each of these tragedies. I prayed, though not very long or hard. I mourned, but my mourning was brief.

I went on with my life quickly.

That's really hard to admit. Because I don't want to be the kind of person that is only concerned about tragedy when it affects me. On the other hand, if I truly followed every detail of every tragedy, then my mind and spirit would become so saturated with grief that I'd be undone.

So where's the middle ground? How do we balance the two sides? How do we mourn for those who mourn without giving into gut-wrenching sorrow? Sometimes it seems our own lives have enough sorrow in them...and taking on anyone else's burden of grief is too much.

I don't really know the answer. I guess the best thing to do is pray that we are people of compassion. That we have opportunities to serve, and take them. That we look beyond ourselves to others who are hurting.

Because I have found that, even if we ourselves are mourning, to serve others and take the opportunity to comfort others heals something inside us.

Your Turn: Clearly, I don't have the answers. But I'd love this to be a conversation, so I wanna know: how do you think we should handle the balance? How do we avoid becoming overwhelmed by tragedy, or--the opposite--immune to its effects?

**Today I'm also posting at the ACFW blog, talking about the writer's journey...and what it has to do with the musical, My Fair Lady. Come say hi!

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net


  1. You ask a very good question, Linz...one to which I doubt there are easy answers. :) What I do know, is that I want to be someone who is compassionate and compelled to act, even when the sorrow isn't my own. Know what I mean? That may not mean necessarily breaking down every time there's another tragedy in the world--because in that case, I'd be living in a state of constant emotional turmoil. But it does mean prayer and when possible, action. I have a friend whose mom immediately signed up to go down to Oklahoma and volunteer after the first round of tornadoes there. That amazes me...how she immediately dropped everything to go down. Not all of us can do that. But I do want to always be open to what I can do...

  2. I love the integrity of your post, Lindsay. And the truths that flow throughout. I become much more aware of tragedies in others' lives when I can personally relate. And those are the ones in which I become emotionally invested, simply because when I reach out to help, it comes from a place of experience. Like helping another woman navigate the pain of an unexpected divorce. Or losing a parent to cancer. Wisdom is received so much more openly by those hurting when you've walked the same road. As for our world full of tragedies, I pray. And pray again. And pray some more. Because I know God will motivate the right people and hearts to become emotionally invested in those situations to make a substantial impact to convey His love.

  3. Lindsay, I love where your heart is in this. God makes us all so different, and I have trouble separating myself from tragedies that are happening. I often have to limit how much time I spend reading or watching the news because it emotionally wrecks me. When those children were killed in their school only miles from my home, it was tough. I still tear up just typing this. All I can do is pray that God would give me strength to use those emotions in the right way and to help in the ways he wants me to help. I don't want to live in fear, and I just have to trust that he can pull me out of that place.