What is a crisis? It is anything that changes an individual’s emotional or physical path. Isn’t that just about everything that happens to us on a daily basis?
For some, a crisis is treated as an emergency whereas for others, the same crisis is just a bump-in-the-road. In either case, one thing is certain: crisis events change the trajectory of our lives. Typically we consider death, illness, injury, loss of job, divorce, and natural disasters as crises. However, financial setbacks, short-term health challenges and even travel interruptions may be perceived as crises as well.
When a crisis takes place, it typically becomes all consuming, both emotionally and physically. As a result, our natural tendency is to spend time dwelling on the event, causing us to feel overwhelmed by the responsibility to address the crisis.
Where to begin? Often with the help of a first-responder providing advice and direction or with someone you trust to answer the questions being asked of you? When my husband suddenly passed away I remember standing in front of the medical staff in the hospital in shock, holding my then 2-year old daughter. Specifically, I can recall them asking me “What can we do to help?” I remember begging them to get someone to think for me as I could not figure out how to finish a thought or move my feet that were barely planted on the ground. Taking charge on the onset of a crisis truly requires the support of an individual or a group providing direction.
As with everything in life, a clearer picture of the challenges placed in front of you comes with time. Once the initial shock of your personal crisis begins to settle down and the cloud of uncertainty lifts, you can begin to ask discovery questions that allow you to assess the situation and begin to create a recovery plan.
Recently, I drove through the impacted areas from the September, 2013 floods in Colorado – finding widespread devastation. Damaged houses still remain along the now receded river beds; cars and other debris remain in piles; and many roads are still impassable. However, what I also saw was a new future - the rebuilding of the roads that will be wider and safer, the creation of rock walls along some of the populated areas of the river to prevent future flooding, and the community outreach to rebuild and improve the mountain communities. While these improvements do not replace ruined property or past memories, they do provide hope for moving forward.
In order to “take charge” of the current crisis regardless of its complexity, individual emotions need to settle down; and the logical side of the brain must resume responsibility. Once this occurs, one can start tackling the crisis by considering the following:
- Enabling others to help with the recovery plan
- Looking at the situation from many different angles
- Gathering all the important facts of the situation
- Making fact-based rather than emotional decisions
- Seeking training or advice on the matter
- Consulting the appropriate medical, financial and legal support
- Taking a break from the aftermath of the crisis
As a friend or family member who is supporting someone involved in a crisis, consider providing encouragement and help with the situation at hand without trying to “fix” them. A recently widowed person or someone who has lost their home in a flood probably does not want to hear that “it will be okay” while they are in the middle of their personal crisis. In time, they will be okay – but not right now. Be present and support them by helping with tasks and providing encouragement while they create their recovery plan and begin to take charge again.
Rachel Kodanaz is an author, speaker and coach who provides encouragement to those who are suffering a loss or setback. She is the author of Living with Loss, One Day at a Time.