7 Ways to Cope With Disasters

After the death of her husband and daughter, and her own cancer scare, Lindsay Nicholson, editor of Good Housekeeping magazine, offers some sage advice on dealing with disaster.

Back in the Nineties, I had it all—or very nearly. But in 1992, my husband John died of leukemia, only a few weeks after we had discovered I was pregnant with our second child. He was 35. So there I was widowed with a three-year-old and pregnant.

In January 1993, my second daughter was born. I called her Hope, the name John and I had agreed on before his death. Just before her ninth birthday, my elder daughter Ellie developed a cold that wouldn’t go away. She too had leukaemia. Ellie lost the fight in June 1998.

In 2004 I married Mark, a real estate agent I had fallen in love with. Surely there wouldn’t be any more bad luck.In 2007, I found a lump in my right breast that turned out to be cancerous.

I survived and my prognosis is good. Not 100 percent but—hey!—we could all fall under that proverbial bus.
The truth is, I remain very fearful of what else life can throw at me. So how do I go on living a relatively normal life?

I have been forced to work out a life philosophy that helps me deal with disaster, and the memory of disaster. It’s not perfect but I pass it on now, in case it is of help to anyone who is going through tough times.

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Do Nothing

When bad news hits, your initial reactions will clouded by shock and denial. This is not a good basis on which to make big decisions about moving house, ending a relationship or quitting a job.

2. Understand the Grief Process

After the shock and denial comes anger and bargaining, then depression. Any sort of loss such as divorce, redundancy or a diagnosis of ill-health resulting in the loss of your dreams for the future will trigger these feelings.

3. Get Help

I don’t know why anyone would think they can get through overwhelming life events without the support of a qualified, compassionate helper. If money is tight, you may qualify for counselling or a support group through a charity or your employee health plan.

4. Faith can Help

Remember the churches, synagogues and temples that have been bringing comfort since time immemorial. If you were brought up in a religion, you might consider going back to it. And even if you weren’t, just finding a church, going in and sitting down can bring some relief.

5. Be Gentle With Yourself

Anniversaries are especially sensitive. After a few near misses, I do not even permit myself to drive a car on those dates. Hope and Mark say they need to wrap me in cotton wool around these times.

6. Wait for the New Normal

You won’t get your old life back. But however great the pain, eventually the situation will normalise and you will come to accept what is rather than harking back to what was. Give it time, though. Years, not weeks or months.

7. Keep Living in Hope

Events may not turn out how you wish, but there can be unlooked-for joy and pleasure nonetheless. Ultimately hope is what gets you through.

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