In the Midst of Tragedy, Be Wary of These 5 Behaviors

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What is some good advice for people who are trying to rebuild their lives after a tragedy? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by AnnMaria De Mars, Startup founder, Ph.D., world judo champion, mother of 4, on Quora:

When overcoming a tragedy:

  1. Don’t drink or use drugs.
  2. Don’t make any major changes right away.
  3. Help other people.
  4. Focus on the good in life (yes, there is a lot).
  5. Turn all of that emotion toward something productive. Work can be cathartic and it pays better than getting drunk.

I usually drink a glass or two of wine each night. Not this week, because I’m on the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation where alcohol is illegal, but usually. When my husband died, I went to drinking a glass once a month. I could see how people could easily use more and more alcohol and drugs to deaden the pain and it’s a slippery slope.

The Dakota believe a person should not make any changes for a year after a person has died because their spirit is still walking the earth. They hold a ceremony a year after the death. When someone dies, or you have other tragedy in your life, you’re grieving, maybe exhausted. It’s definitely not the time to be making major decisions. Your judgement isn’t the best and you don’t need any more stress. As tempting as it might be to quit jobs, move to Peru or marry the mail clerk - wait. Machu Pichu and Bobby the Mail Clerk will still be around six months from now and maybe they won’t look so good to you any more.

It helped me to get out and help other people. The first Thanksgiving without my husband, I invited everyone I knew who wasn’t going home for Christmas to come to my house. I tried to focus on other people instead of poor me.

Focus on what is good and try to find joy from that, or at least a little comfort. My husband died but I had my children, a secure job, a good education and supportive friends. Do you live in America? Are you healthy? Are you here legally? Are you homeless? If you are reading this, you are probably in a far more privileged position than most people and able to pull yourself up.

Turn all of that emotion toward something productive. In my case, I worked an insane amount of hours right after my husband died. Within two years I had paid off the medical bills, funeral bills and the IRS. Maybe it would have been better if I spent more time with my children instead, but I was very sad, and rather than sit around and be depressed, I wrote articles, wrote grants, got consulting contracts, sometimes just until I was exhausted and fell asleep. It may not have been the best method of coping but I know it was better than many other things I could have done and at least when I was not grieving as much, I had built a business.

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