What To Do When Bad Things Happen and We’re Rocked To The Core

We’ve all experienced tragedies beyond our control that seemingly come from nowhere. They devastate us, they rock us to the core, they leave us feeling too overwhelmed and disoriented to muster the courage to get up and face this big, chaotic world for another day. Sometimes it seems it would be easier just to stay in bed and pull the covers up high so we can pretend that nothing at all has happened. Perhaps this was just a bad dream after all.


It seems the magnitude and frequency of tragedies in society today challenges our deepest emotional and spiritual fortitude. Are we safe? we wonder. Will it ever end? How do we make sense of all this anguish and terror? What do we do to keep moving forward?


These questions reverberate in our souls. We can ignore them, we can push them into the shadowy corners of our minds, but when another tragedy happens, when another life is senselessly lost, they reappear and force us to face this harsh reality once again.


Whether it is a national tragedy, whether it is a tragedy in our communities or in our homes, the reality is that bad things will happen. They are an inevitable part of life this side of heaven. I’ve found four things we can do when we are faced with tragedy so we can move forward productively in our lives, no matter the circumstance.


Recognize the need to feel your emotions.

Though we may not have been directly affected, sometimes we experience significant emotions in response to tragedies around us. We are tempted to run, to distract ourselves, to minimize the importance of what we are feeling. We dismiss. Sometimes we shame. Sometimes all we feel is the numbness of the shock.


Because Ecclesiastes 3:4 (NIV) tells us that , There is a time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance, we know that it is important to allow ourselves to connect with and feel our emotions. We cannot heal if we cannot feel. It is a requirement for us to deal with all of the tragedies in life, to grieve them, and be able to move forward from them so we can rebuild our lives as well as our sense of direction and purpose. We must grieve each and every loss. We need to grieve.


We must grieve each and every loss. We need to grieve.Click To Tweet


Learn to talk ourselves off of the ledge.

Extreme thoughts bounce around in the confines of our minds. They are relentless. They tell us that we are next, that there is nowhere safe, that this would have never happened if…. These thoughts are normal in the context of our grieving, yet it is vital to recognize our deepest heart-fears and learn to talk ourselves through them to a better place.


2 Corinthians 10:5b says that, we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Not every thought that flows through our minds is true, not every thought is rational, good, or balanced. We must learn how to balance our thoughts, how to soothe our fears. We must become practiced at maintaining a hopeful, truthful dialogue with ourselves. Doing so will prepare us to live life to its fullest and be as grounded as possible for whatever challenges will come.


Choose to cultivate meaning and purpose in our lives.

Viktor Frankl once described how Holocaust survivors were able to endure their horrific suffering because they were able to find meaning and purpose for their lives and their suffering. Their faith gave them a greater foundation for deeper understanding and human compassion.


We can never prevent evil men from committing evil acts. In the midst of our sorrow, we can choose to allow these situations to transform our faith and take us into deeper communion with God. We can glean every measure of meaning possible from these horrific, violent experiences and honor the beautiful lives lost with the gift of remembering them, their stories, their accomplishments and their humanity. We can bind ourselves together and corporately purge the evil residue of hatred and sorrow to create a greater vision and purpose. 


Release to God what we cannot control.

Tragedies serve as a reminder that so much in life is beyond our control. As advanced as our technologies have become, as sophisticated as modern systems of reasoning and understanding have brought us, in the end, there is nothing that can entirely protect us or prevent future tragedies from happening.


We will drive ourselves to despair trying to control that which is helplessly out of our control. Part of being able to move past our grief and rebuild our lives lies in releasing to God the things we cannot clutch, force, or mend. The more we are able to exhale and surrender our fear, the more we will be able to heal what has been torn into a thousand pieces and begin to reclaim our future the best way we know how. Surrender allows us to move further towards acceptance as we gather together the pieces of sorrow and joy, and begin to once again take steps forward towards life. Life will come again. Though it will never look quite the same, in time life will come.


Life will come again. Though it will never look quite the same, in time life will come.Click To Tweet




About Lisa

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, author, coffee lover, and wife. My online community lisamurrayonline.com provides a compassionate place in the midst of the stresses and struggles of life. At heart, I am just a Southern girl who loves beautiful things, whether it is the beauty of words found in a deeply moving story, the beauty of a meal cooked with love, the beauty of a cup of coffee with a friend, or the beauty seen in far away landscapes and cultures. I have fallen passionately in love with the journey and believe it is among the most beautiful gifts to embrace and celebrate. While I grew up in the Florida sunshine, I live with my husband just outside Nashville in Franklin, TN.

About Peace for a Lifetime

In my new book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with herself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!

Peace for a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com.


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  1. Pamela Mattox

    June 14, 2016 at 6:14 PM

    Lisa, this is the first time I’ve read anything you’ve written and so glad I did! You write so beautifully. So eloquently. I am familiar with who you are as your cousin Becca is one of my dearest friends (she posted this article tonight). She speaks highly of your book and references it often. Thank you for making such a marked impact on the world. May God pour His blessings on you and your ministry!

    • lisamurray

      June 17, 2016 at 11:13 AM

      Thank you for your kind words, Pamela! It is an honor to meet a friend of Becca – I deeply cherish her and her family. Blessings to you today!

  2. Your third and fourth points in particular resonate with me: “Choose to cultivate meaning and purpose in our lives” and “Release to God what we cannot control”. We do all need healthy strategies like these to combat those feelings of hopelessness that can come with great tragedies. Thanks for sharing these, Lisa!

    • lisamurray

      June 17, 2016 at 11:11 AM

      So glad to have you here, Lisa! When we can create meaning, even in the most difficult circumstances, it allows us to grieve losses without becoming stuck in their pain. Have a great weekend!

  3. So much truth! Thank you for sharing!

  4. I hope to remember these words when I come across rocky road again.
    And I wish I’ve read this before I went through some tough times. 🙂

    Wise words.

  5. Powerful piece and so finely written, Lisa. This sentence is one I want to take hold of: “We cannot heal if we cannot feel.” Often, putting the event, the tragedy, the words spoken, out of sight and out of mind leaves one empty and yet full of something we do not understand nor “feel.” Thank you for touching my heart this morning.

    • lisamurray

      June 20, 2016 at 5:29 PM

      Thank you for your kind words! It is true, we cannot heal what we cannot feel. Such an important part of grieving. Blessings to you!

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