How do I deal with devastating tragedy?

After almost nine months of working in the hospital, facing tragedy, death, suffering, I am recently coming to a more clear understanding of how I face it, how I can continually encounter it. The temptation for me, and I would imagine for many, is to come up with a reason, an explanation, or even some way of being prepared for the devastation of life lost suddenly or illness. Visualizing how I might be, getting my skills in the grief process honed in, numbing… there are lots of ways to be prepared, some better than others, many that I regularly utilize.

I am now saying I never am “prepared” for this. I wish and hope and pray on everything I know that it doesn’t happen, on my shift or anyone’s shift. I get a call and the first thought that goes through my head is, “Oh dear God. Not again.” For me, there is not a pretending that it doesn’t happen, or that it won’t, but a desperate hoping that individuals, families, or communities will not have to suffer today. And when they do, I am hit in the gut with the sadness, the devastation, the agony that they still do, despite my deepest wishes. I never want to be “prepared” for this. Because most of the people I meet are not. And i want to be near to them in their pain, to try to understand, even in the slightest, what it might be like for them.

And when I leave a family, or someone leaves the hospital, I have to say goodbye and do it all again. And the thing that helps me is to recognize that this really did happen and it happens countless times every. single. day. There is no pretending, no numbing (as much as I am able), just acceptance and a continuing hope that it won’t happen again.

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2 thoughts on “How do I deal with devastating tragedy?”

  1. Well said, Nate. I understand where you are coming from. Continue to stay present to those you are ministering to. Remember that this is truly sacred work. I hope knowing that you are doing meaningful and purpose-filled service feeds your spirit and brings you renewal and continual healing. With love…

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