"Shooter enters shopping mall and opens fire. Thirty-seven dead, many others wounded."
"Entire family killed in head-on collision. Accident caused by intoxicated driver. He survives."
"Woman found dead in apartment. Investigation reveals cause as suicide."
"Hurricane wipes out entire village. Hundreds left homeless."
With more than 300 mass shootings this year in the United States alone, the chances that someone we love will be torn by tragedy increases daily. Add to it deaths by suicide, drunk driving, airplane crashes and natural disasters, and the odds increase dramatically.
What will we do when we receive that phone call, text or knock on the door telling us that someone we love is in danger or no longer with us? How will we respond when one of our own is hurting?
In our shock, disbelief and horror, we know we need to act, but how? The acrostic COMPASSION gives us 10 ways we can be of assistance:
C – Come now!
When tragedy strikes someone we love, our immediate response is crucial. Our presence is a calming influence. We provide a sense of stability while the rest of the world is crashing down around them.
O – Open the mouth
Keeping what we say simple is key since our words can make or break our relationships with those who are hurting. There are 3 basic messages we should give:
I love you.
I care about what is happening to you.
I will help you get through this difficult time.
M – Monitor daily activities
During a tragedy, daily routines are interrupted. The focus on personal health and well-being is lost in the chaos of the present circumstances. Our job as helpers is to make sure our loved ones have nutritious meals, plenty of rest and necessary medical protocol.
Praying for our loved ones helps them feel peace in the midst of the storm. Our prayers in their presence tell them we know God will be there for them. It also reminds them they can pray on their own for needed comfort, peace and guidance.
A – Ask the hard questions
Sometimes it is necessary to ask difficult questions. Tragedy leaves families in a state of shock. We may think of something that needs to be done that has been overlooked. Asking about the issue, brings it to their attention, and gives us the opportunity to help them find a resolution.
S – Smile
Tragedy takes away our reasons to smile. Making the effort to smile at the right moment lightens the atmosphere and gives permission to those hurting to find humor in a difficult situation. Laughter releases valuable feel-good hormones in our brains, a comic relief they need more than just about anything.
S – Share positive memories
If the family has lost a loved one, and when they are ready to talk about their loved one's past, we can bring back positive memories by sharing photos and reminiscing. This can offer some relief and help them have a better perspective on the present.
Be careful not to take offense if things are said or done that grate on the nerves. When tragedy is raw, people sometimes do not think before they speak. Decisions are made that just don't make sense. Toes get stepped on, and feelings get easily hurt. Don't dwell on it. Let it go.
O – Offer options to explore
Adjustments must be made in order for life to go on after a tragedy. Allow loved ones to explore options and offer possibilities for them to consider. At first, when anger and frustration are high, options may seem extreme. This is normal. As things settle down, more reasonable thinking returns.
The grieving process takes time. Everyone goes about it in his or her own way. Our grief may take a different course than that of those we love. This is okay. Continuing to help others work through grief helps us to work through our own.
After a tragedy, compassion is literally emotional first aid. When we remember how love is constant, we help bring relief to those we care about, while giving peace to our own souls. After all, that is what the life of Jesus was all about—compassion.