When Tragedy Strikes

Chapter 2 – Are you in Denial or Shock due to divorce or death of spouse or any other tribulation – Romans 8:28

“God makes all things for the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose” – Romans 8:28

This is one of my favorite Scripture quotes and I rely on it daily. Whenever tragedy strikes this is a great quote to lean on. Let us never forget that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has turned everything upside and down and has made all things new. What appears to be tragedy to you may even be a blessing from God. One of my favorite songs is called Blessings by Laura Story and the theme of the song is what if our tear drops were God’s blessings in disguise.

I have personally been through shock and denial. I lost my one and only sibling, my older brother to death in 1997. He was only 37 years old. He was my brother, friend, mentor, confidant and meant a lot to me and he taught me much about life and faith. I lost my father to death in 2008. My father and I had a great and loving relationship. My father instilled my values and my Catholic faith into my brother and myself. I would not be the man I am today without my father and brother influence. They for sure are still the 2 most influential men in my life.

As much as I loved my father and brother, the demise of my marriage in 2008 was the most devastating event of my life. Worse than death!  When I realized my wife and I were not going to make it, I died and I felt like dying. My first reaction was shock and denial, “how can this happen to me”. I cried like a baby. I was figuratively in the fetal position. I was not even angry because I was so shocked I had a difficult time functioning. I could not think, read or focus on anything. I , of course, blamed my wife for everything because it was her choice not mine. I wanted to do anything to help and repair our marriage. How could she choose this? How could she do this? This is not really happening? This is a bad dream! I was numb for days, weeks and months and even years! As my wife moved on with her life, I felt abandoned and left behind, even though we had 4 children together that we loved. Not only did I blame God, but I cursed God! I had no idea at that time that God had a plan for my life. Romans 8:28 tells me and you what to do, what to focus on, and that is to keep loving God, period! If we love Him, we will be called according to His purpose. I just wasn’t there yet. Although I did not stop loving God, I certainly did not turn to Him for Love and security and acceptance and that was a big mistake. Denial keeps us back from facing the truth because we cannot accept it. When we continue to deny the truth we are not able to accept or even focus on reality and we cannot move forward. I do not like to use or hear the term “move on”, but the term, “keep moving forward” is necessary for not just survival but to thrive. God wants you and me to thrive! His plans are grandiose for our lives in this world and the next!

We are all told there are stages when tragedy strikes and the first stage is shock and denial. The next 2 stages are worse, but as you navigate through shock and denial try to focus on God’s love and loving Him. A good prayer to say repeatedly, while in this first stage is – I love you Jesus, thank you Jesus, help me Jesus. You may be wondering why you would say thank you Jesus, but we can never forget what He did for us, and, I also strongly believe we should thank Him for the good and bad in our lives. Every little things that happens to us, is an opportunity for us to grow closer to Him. We are on a journey to heaven, and I hope and pray we all live a healthy life to 100 years old, however, our final destination is heaven. Our lives and this earth are a gift from God to be enjoyed with family and friends, so by all means enjoy this life and live the abundant life that God wants us to live.

In addition to leaning on God in this stage, lean on good friends who genuinely care, but please try your best not to whine to them. I have certainly done my share of whining, so it will take place, but know you will grow out of it and this too shall pass.

I strongly recommend meeting with a small group of faith-based friends regularly, even weekly. If you are a man, find a group of faith-based men. If you are a woman, find other woman. It’s very important to seek out others of the same sex in the denial stage who have strong faith and practice and study their Catholicism. If your parish does not have a group, check to see if a neighboring parish has a group. Consider starting one at your own parish, like I did with my friend. Stick with this group. The group does not have to all have marital problems like you do. You will soon find out many in the group have their own set of problems, but share the faith. My men’s faith sharing and Gospel Reflection group at St. Pius X parish in Broomall, PA are very important to me and we now meet socially as well after 7 years of meeting together weekly. We started the group in May, 2008. My father passed about 5 weeks later and the first people knocking on my door was this group of friends. When you are in a crisis, there is no greater friendship then the friendship of those you share the faith with. God, our faith and our friends in the faith are a rock and refuge like no other!

I would also recommend attending Eucharistic Adoration. There is no greater comfort than sitting in front of our Lord in the Holy Sacrament. Start with baby steps if you must, 5-10 minutes but the goal is to work up to an hour a week, every week. Devote yourself to that weekly hour with Jesus exposed in the Blessed Sacrament. As one saint said to another saint when he was asked what do you do during Eucharistic Adoration, the saint replied, “nothing, I look at Him and He looks at me and we are happy together”. That is an awesome line! Pray if you wish, say the rosary or read a holy book but try to do nothing and just let God speak to you. As the prophet Samuel said, “speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

Serve as well. Go to a shelter or soup kitchen or help children in need but actively participate, all in the name of Jesus. Serving brings a smile to our faces and warms our hearts. It takes the emphasis off ourselves when we think of others and help others. It distracts our pain and misery and makes us count our blessings and all that is good in our lives.

Find a constructive hobby. Anything you like, as long as constructive, pursue it.

I hope you found some of the advice in this chapter helpful while you work through the denial stage and mediate on Romans 8:28. It has worked for me. Also, realize there will be ups and downs, peaks and valleys, and not all the stages are clear-cut, we go back and forth sometimes throughout the various stages, but whatever stage you are in, focus on God’s love!

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