Disaster can strike from anything. From the death of a loved one. From a natural disaster. From a severe medical condition. From romantic heartbreak. So on and so forth. The common element in a disaster is you feel like you’ve lost everything and you have no ideas on how to rebuild. The moment you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that disaster has hit and there is no going back, it’s like a cosmic explosion goes off inside you, rippling through space-time in search of anyone who has the power to save you.
People usually make it worse
You get a lot of advice from people. Advice that goes straight to logic and does not account for emotions. When the advice has an arrogant “I know what you need. I’ve been where you are” tone to it, it feels like a dose of guilt. When the advice is aggressive, it feels annoying and, at times, disgusting. When the advice is too casual, it feels like it was said merely as a formality. When the advice is non-existent, it feels like there is no concern whatsoever. In the end, no matter how people respond, they almost always make it worse.
It takes a special kind of person to actually make it easier during a disaster. Say the right things. Do the right things. This person is usually a therapist or a friend who can be extremely patient and gentle with you.
It’s not right
A disaster always leaves a feeling of “it’s not right.”
“She had no right to say that to me!”
“He was way out of line!”
“It shouldn’t have happened that way. It should’ve happened differently.”
These are all sentiments that reflect the “it’s not right” feeling in a disaster. The truth, at the end of the day, is that it’s never right. You lose during a disaster. The circumstances of it don’t matter. What matters is what you lose. That’s what really hurts underneath all of the accusations. That’s what doesn’t feel right. It’s not right that you’re losing something so important.
It’s not fair
“Why me? Why not someone else?”
“How can they have their life intact, when I lost everything?”
We mentioned this in another article. There are few things that devastate a person as much as watching someone else have what you dreamed of having. What you’d give anything to have. It’s a level of devastation that is certain to make you cry. This feeling can come from real life scenes, songs, movies, anywhere.
In the aftermath of a disaster, dreams are broken. All the moments and journeys you had envisioned are destroyed forever.
As a consequence, the present-future balance is severely upset. For example, say you are a student at present and in the future you hope to be a doctor. Then, if you get low marks, you can overcome that in the next exam. If you have to work a job for food, you can manage that too. No matter what hits you along the way, you can be alright as long as that broad present-future balance — that student-doctor balance — remains intact.
But, suppose you lost your house. Then you can no longer become a doctor in the near future. Or, if you become severely heartbroken in life, then you lose the drive to become a doctor, which again, leads to a break in the student-doctor balance. In this way, disasters always break the broader present-future balance. This makes you feel as if there never was a present or a future.
Livelihood and renewed meaning
The recovery starts with livelihood. No, money cannot buy happiness. But it can give you access to travel and whims. These travels and whims are necessary to renew meaning in life. All the pieces from these travels and whims coalesce eventually into new meaning and purpose.
Being careful about mass media
There is no shortage of slogans on twitter, facebook and the likes about healing from a deep wound such as a disaster. They can be very misleading. Preferrably, one who is healing from a disaster should not put much stock into media slogans like “every journey starts with a single step” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or “Fuck others. Do what you want. Live life on your own terms.” These slogans all sound very sexy. But they are very limited and often misguiding.
If you must engage with another person about your journey, then start a blog about your life. You can write on platforms such as Quora where there will always be an audience. Or, you can write for your close friends and family. The only thing not to do is follow crowd slogans that give you unachievable ideas or set you up with unrealistic/doomed-to-disappoint expectations.
Bringing back impulse control and planned functioning
Several foundations break during a disaster. Dreams are broken. Homes are lost. Time is lost. Memories are lost. Journeys are lost. Therefore, a person coming off a disaster begins living on a moment-to-moment basis. They slowly become driven by their immediate impulses. They become uncomfortable about planning anything. But life cannot go smoothly without planning. Yes, disasters can happen despite planning, but they will most definitely happen if there isn’t even an attempt at planning. Resources go out of hand. Time goes out of hand. Control is not attempted. Life becomes a mess, and your immediate impulses drive you towards quick fixes such as drugs and alcohol.
It is important to rebuild planned functioning after a disaster. A moment-to-moment, impulse-driven existence will never lead to long-term fulfillment. Only by making a plan, can you move towards one day having a new present-future balance in your head.
Every recovery is deeply personal
You can read every “great” journey there ever was for tips. But in the end, you must make your own mistakes, and derive your own lessons. Advice is good, but it defeats the purpose if it goes against your current emotional state or your existing momentum. In the end, your journey is personal. Only you can live out the path. You might find benefit in someone else’s philosophy for a time, but when all is said and done, it’ll be you and only you that truly understands what you went through.
I hope this information helps you in your own disaster. Thank you for reading.