There are things that happen in life that change us. It can be the death of a loved one, a diagnosis, a medical emergency, an emotional break-down. These moments of crisis take us from the perception of safety and stability that we had “before” into a terrifying new world. And it’s a new world that many people don’t seem to understand.
Moments of Crisis
People tend to respond to crisis. If there is a death in the family (particularly an unexpected death), friends, co-workers, and faith communities rally around. After diagnosis of a serious illness, there’s a flurry of activity on Caring Bridge, or lots of phone calls and other. Support networks form. People bring meals. There’s lots of checking in.
I think that the ability to respond to others in crisis is wonderful. In our most challenging moments, we need to know that we are loved, cared for, and practically supported. But, I also think that crisis support fades away. We don’t have mechanisms for sustaining support–even if that support is desperately needed.
Recovery is a Process, Not a Destination
Whether you are talking about grieving, or talking about how life gets radically restructured after medical emergencies, moments of crisis change our lives. And the growing pains that result from that change can last for a really long time. Just because the funeral was two months ago, or you’re home from the hospital, or chemotherapy is over, or your insulin pump is installed–that doesn’t mean that the grief and adjustment have ended. In many cases, the realities of this “new life” are just making themselves felt.
I told a client today that one reason I work with people affected by serious illness is that, overall, our culture doesn’t do a great job of acknowledging how hard the “after the crisis” adjustment is. There aren’t very many spaces where it is okay to answer the question, “How are things going?” in a way that tells the truth about how hard and complicated life after crisis can be. Because other people aren’t living with the daily changes, new fears, and life adjustments, it is sometimes hard for them to understand how exhausting and consuming those changes can be.
I believe that it is incredibly important to acknowledge the challenges of “after the crisis.” Crisis can sometimes change who we are at our foundation. So, we need to create space that supports that change.
Supporting the Process
So, if you’re reading this after a crisis in your life, I want to tell you that it is okay to not be okay. It is natural to have complicated, sometimes contradictory feelings. It’s not unusual to feel as though you are broken, and making a huge effort to “hold it together.”
And then I want you to know that it is healthy to get support. To let trusted friends know that, just because the “crisis” is over, the need for support hasn’t gone away. To reach out to a therapist, support group, or pastor if you’re not getting what you need from friends and loved ones. To let someone walk through this with you and hold the hope that there is a life after the brokenness.
I’d love to hear from you. What have you needed people to understand about your “after crisis” experiences? What was the most helpful thing someone said or did? What was the least helpful.
Photo Credit: Broken Glass by akeg