This picture is of a beautiful Japanese Magnolia, blooming at our Santa Barbara courthouse.  I photographed it a couple weeks ago, during a walk in the sunken gardens at the courthouse.  I always feel comforted by the beauty of nature.  I’ve written many times before about the power of nature to soothe our stresses away, but this has been a hard week to take that thought in.

Nature dealt Japan a traumatic double-blow on March 11, 2011.  First an unimaginable 9.0 earthquake, and then the terrifying tsunami, which followed it.  As if that weren’t enough, there has been all the fear and horror connected to the nuclear power plants, which have been so badly damaged by both the quake and the tsunami.

The reality of what has happened is very much with us.  There’s, also, the overwhelming sense of helplessness we all feel when listening to the news or seeing the pictures of such widespread devastation.  In the face of so much suffering, how do we avoid being seriously traumatized?

Several of my clients have come in this week with increased anxiety and depression because of what has happened, and continues to happen, in Japan.  I have listened to their concerns, their fears, and their sorrows.  I have stressed the importance of limiting the amount of time they spend watching television coverage of the disaster.  After that, I have helped them find their own ways of coping.

If they’re religious or spiritual, I encouraged them to pray for the people of Japan, to hold them in their hearts, with an image of love, connection, and hopefulness for their tomorrows.  If they’re more practical in nature, we talked about making donations to their choice of charities for disaster relief.  If they’re creative, we talked about writing poems or stories about what’s happened, or maybe doing some artwork to express their thoughts and feelings.  If they’re open to symbolism, I suggested planting a tree or a flowering bush, to honor the people who died, or as a symbol of hope for those who are going on with their lives, so forever deeply changed.  We can’t undo the reality of what has happened, but there are ways we can comfort ourselves.

Always, though, I come back, in my own heart, to thoughts of nature.  I take comfort in the beauty of a flower, the caress of a gentle breeze, the warmth of the sun after a spring rain, the stars twinkling so high above me at night.  There are so many blessings in nature, but unfortunately, there are also tragedies.  I don’t know why the tragedies happen, but they do.  I just know that if I focus only on the tragedies, I miss the blessings around me!

Whether adults or children, we need to find ways to cope with the tragedies of life.  They happen to all of us.  Few tragedies are of the magnitude of what has happened in Japan, but when they’re happening in our own lives, they can feel enormous.

If you’re having trouble coping with this recent tragedy in Japan, or one closer to home, please reach out for help and comfort to friends, family, and/or professionals, so that you don’t feel so alone with your pain and sorrow.  As always, please let me know your thoughts.  What helps you?

Until next time,

Linda

2 Comments

  • Hi Linda. Your blog helped me. I have a very close friend who is Japan right now with an urban search and rescue team. We have been keeping in contact through texts. Short hi’s and how are you’s throughout the day. I know he is struggling right now with what is going on as well as the pain of being away from his daughter for so long (he was helping with the New Zealand earthquake before going directly to Japan). I know he is feeling the pain and devastation around him and I have been struggling with trying to find the right words to help him through this ordeal. In trying to help him, I find myself having difficulties coping as well. I came across your blog while searching for something or someway to help him or even just some words to give him a little light in his life. I guess just some sort of advice.
    I hesitate when talking about my day to day with him because it seems like such meager conversation when he is dealing with something so devastating. In reading your blog, I realized that my doing so may actually be helping him. Life does go on and blessings are everywhere.
    I’m going to hush now but thank you. Thank you for your blog and allowing me to write this because that helped to 🙂

  • Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and let me know how this post was helpful to you.

    Please let your friend know how much we all appreciate his efforts to help these people. I can certainly understand how hard it must be for him to be away from his daughter for a long time, but I can barely imagine how difficult his task over there must be.

    I think that it would be very helpful to him to hear about your day to day life. It would reassure him that life does continue, and that there are people and places not filled with the tragedy that he’s seeing all around him.

    I hope that you will come back to this blog again, and that other posts will be helpful to you. That’s why I write it, and I love hearing how it touches people.

    Be well, and I’ll hold good thoughts for you and your friend,

    Linda

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