Finding Wisdom after Tragedy

Comfort for hard times

Finding comfort and wisdom after Tragedy; searching for support, self care during troubled times.

What do you have to say about what just happened?” My client asked me at the end of our session. She paused as I considered the question. Then she said “I’ll wait for your blog. I always look forward to your blog because you always say something really wise. Your words are so helpful.“

The truth of the matter is I had no especially wise words then, just after the tragedy – or series of tragedies – that had recently occurred.

And I still have no truly profound wise words. Just some simple ones:

Contemplating her question reminded me that as we adults are wondering about what’s going on, so too are our kids. My niece has been really frightened about earthquakes, hurricanes, BART, protests, concerts. Parents are asking me how to talk to kids about all the stuff when they themselves feel scared, worried, overwhelmed.

The best I could find is something kind Mr. Rogers said that touched my heart. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say:

‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’

To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother‘s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.“

Wise words #1: Look for the helpers. You will always find someone trying to help, and someone who cares.

When a client said she felt like the whole world, everywhere she looked, was horrible – so messed up and there wasn’t any good left in the world that felt meaningful to go to… some gentle wisdom occurred to me:

Wise words #2: Look for the good. Because it is everywhere. It seems as if people are acting on the sense or permission they have to be hateful and hurtful. But there are also many (more) people out there who seem to have even more permission and desire to express kindness and love and are choosing to live in that direction.

I have a client who was badly shaken up by the last terrible violent tragedy – and was reminded of significant violent traumas she’s experienced in her own life. She came to me with deep overflowing appreciation for how I have helped her in the past – and offered to pay what she regularly pays for a  month’s sessions with me, but only come once a month for six months or so, so someone else needy of therapy, but unable to pay for it, could come and benefit from working with me – since the times are so hard right now for everyone. Such a generous offer she made.

Or the client who knitted 13 preemie caps in soft purple yarn for a program in Oklahoma bringing awareness to Shaken Baby Syndrome, while she was waiting for her husband to come through open heart surgery. Reaching out from her own anxiety to help soothe someone else.

Yes, look for the good… There are so many ways and so many places to find it and share it.

At another moment during this emotionally intense week, I was in a meeting with a group of colleagues, hearing from them about current joys, trials, losses and profound tragedy; and found myself without ‘out loud’ words again (or still?). I was however full of feeling about all I’d heard and all that’s been going on, and I realized I was simply holding in a loving way, the pain and sorrows and wonders shared by everyone. And that was enough. In the meeting, my colleague called me a “FEEL-ometer“… One who registers or holds the feeling and is not caught up in attempting to change it.

I was reminded of a client who had lamented about how hard it is to live in the world right now and I had offered her an authentic but simple “I know.“ Believe me, I know – this is what I’m hearing and holding from everyone. When I just hold, I can feel deeply and share my compassion.

Wise words #3: Feel the feel. Allow yourself to gently hold the complexities and nuances, the joys and pains of this daily life we live. Even when it hurts.

Later that night, I watched Hillary Clinton on the Jimmy Fallon show. I was moved to tears when there were a series of women writers who came onstage and wrote thank you notes to her, recognizing her courage, grace, intelligence, and compassion through the most devastating of defeats, mixed in with gentle humor that made me laugh through the tears…

Wise words #4: Say thank you. Have gratitude – even if it’s not perfect. And laugh together.

At a women’s group meeting this week when a member talked about some very disturbing and frightening events she was potentially vulnerable to, she was able to recognize her anxiety as a cue about something she cares deeply about. She could get underneath the anxiety and connect to her heart and true values. In doing so, she found some strength and direction. She became grounded and empowered about what to do next and was able to find the certainty of living her values, even if it’s amidst a very unclear confusing and scary path.

Wise words #5: Go beneath your anxiety and fear, and find the compass of your heart. Live by the compass that connects you to your deepest values. (Compass-ion, integrity, decency, kindness, courage, etc.).

And then a few more days into this especially heavy week, I had a morning meditation session filled with beautiful attention and time to tend to all these emotions, thoughts and body sensations I have been carrying. The act of steady, compassionate mindful presence was such a gift, such a soothing and calming and loving way of being with myself. I found gentle peace and a strong heart amidst all the choppy waves. I felt blessings and courage; support and strength; tenderness and letting go. Mindfulness and meditation helped me to clear some more room for more holding that is sure to come.

Words of wisdom #6: Meditate. Be the heart, the holder, the helper. Be the good side of humanity

If you or someone you love need support as you face the troubled world and any tragedies you’re dealing with, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
[email protected]
(510) 482-4445


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  2. Kennedy Golden on October 31, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    Beautiful. Honest. Helpful. Thank you, as always.

    • Cindi Rivera MFT on October 31, 2017 at 5:47 pm

      Warmest blessings back to you! Thank you for reading and sharing.

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