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Crisis…it comes in all shapes and sizes and the stress of the events can have a negative effect on our overall well-being if we are not actively taking steps to stay healthy. From the loss of a job or a divorce, to a serious illness or death of a loved one, we will all face a crisis at some point in our lives....
Staying Healthy Through Heartache by Pamela Sayers Van Horn

Crisis…it comes in all shapes and sizes and the stress of the events can have a negative effect on our overall well-being if we are not actively taking steps to stay healthy.

From the loss of a job or a divorce, to a serious illness or death of a loved one, we will all face a crisis at some point in our lives.

Fourteen years ago, little Karli Jo was in need of a tonsillectomy. The energetic blonde-haired, blue-eyed toddler had minor complications during the procedure, but her parents were informed everything would be fine. However, one week later their worst nightmare was realized.

Karli woke early and was watching her favorite children’s television program when something went terribly wrong. She coughed and began hemorrhaging severely from her healing wound. As her two older brothers looked on and did what they could to help, their mother, Teresa, performed CPR on her little girl as they awaited the arrival of the emergency responders. Karli Jo was taken by ambulance to the local hospital and later airlifted to a children’s hospital, but the doctors were not able to save her. The lives of this family were changed forever in an instant.

I can’t pretend to imagine the difficult road of grief that follows a tragedy of this proportion. However, I have experienced personal crisis. Recently, my 24 year marriage ended in divorce, and I consecutively lost my job and then my home. Everything turned upside down, and life as I knew it was over forever.

Whether you are starting over or somehow trying to find a way to move forward, it is important for our wellness to learn how to do this. “There are many struggles,” Teresa shares, “and I can tell you in retrospect what is, and what is not, the best way to manage the stress and grief when you are going through a crisis.”

“It’s so important to not be isolated,” Teresa says. “You need to be able to talk about what you’ve experienced, and to feel safe enough to vent all of the emotions that you are feeling without judgment with people who care about you.”

As Teresa and I discussed our different situations, we both agreed that regardless of the circumstances, there are specific things that we can and should do to come through these difficult times without damaging our own health in the process.

  • Talk out your feelings, don’t bottle them up inside.
  • Have a support group of individuals who are either going through a similar experience or are able to empathize with your situation and walk the journey with you.
  • Engage in daily exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood.
  • Take one day at a time, or sometimes even one hour at a time.
  • Help someone else; it’s a relief to focus on others.
  • Recognize you are alive for a reason and a purpose.
  • Meditate or pray, rest in your faith.
  • Don’t turn to drugs, alcohol or toxic relationships.
  • Practice gratitude by finding one thing to be thankful for every day.
  • Seek professional help if you are having difficulty making healthy decisions.
  • Don’t feel guilty about living and don’t punish yourself.
  • Life is always changing – how you feel today is not necessarily how you’ll feel tomorrow.

The most important aspect to keep in mind when going through a crisis is that there are no shortcuts. We want to go around it or over it, but we must accept that there is no other way than to go through it. Realize there are stages, and we will experience all of them at some point. We may try to ignore having to face the painful steps of healing, but they are necessary so that we can move on, and not be stuck in the grief process for years on end.

Finally, we will not find health in avoidance or blame. We will not always understand or have the answers that we wish would come. It is truly in accepting our new reality, and embracing what we do still have in our lives, that we are eventually able to move forward in health and wholeness.

Pamela Sayers Van Horn has served as the business office manager of a skilled nursing facility, and eventually owned and managed an assisted living home for three years. She now operates her own writing company and lives in Tucson, AZ with her two sons.