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Life Check! When Catastrophic Life Changes Happen

Updated on September 14, 2016

Learning About Catastrophic News

No matter how you find out, learning of a major life change is never fun. A person you care about is in trouble or in an accident, a friend needs a place to stay, a relationship ends, all are major life changes.

Learning about the news of an event can be devastation to you. Stay calm.

Listen. Listen until the other person is done speaking.

Don't speak for a moment.

Gather your thoughts. This is not a soap opera. This is real life. No matter how hard, remain calm.


Gather Important Facts About the Catastrophe

No matter what the news is, you need to gather the facts.

Get a pen and paper right now.

If a person is injured, ask these questions:

  1. Are they in a hospital or elsewhere?
  2. If they are in a hospital, What hospital are they in?
  3. Do you need me to come to the hospital or stay home?
  4. Is there anything that is needed?
  5. Is there anyone you would like me to notify?
  6. Are you in a room or in the emergency room?

As the person is speaking, do these things:

  1. Write the answers down.
  2. Repeat the information back to them.
  3. Ask if there is anything else.

You may normally be level headed, but devastating news can throw any of us for a loop.

If the situation is not an emergency, but an urgency, you still write the information down. An example is a friend needing a place to stay.

Good questions are:

  1. How long will they need to stay?
  2. What will be coming along with them?
  3. What will you need from me while you are with me?

If the person who is asking will be allowed to stay, make it clear how long they can stay for.

If the answer is a no, you may choose to explain why. Don't become emotional. If there are other avenues that they can try, make those known to the person. If you don't want to help, don't lie. Say that you are not able to help. Nothing more needs to be said.


Take a Moment For Yourself Before You Handle a Crisis

Take a moment for yourself. Calm down.

Read the list that you wrote down. If there is anything that you need to gather, bring it all to one central place in your home. Before you leave the house, if they are well enough, call them and tell them what you are bringing and ask if they need anything else. Ask where there phone charger is and bring that as well.

If you are going to be driving, make sure that you are calm. Remember that if they are in a hospital, the medical staff there is far better prepared than you to give help.

Drive safely and carefully to the hospital. Note where you are parked. Take a picture of the parking area or enter it as a note on your phone.


Support is Emotionally Draining

When you are providing support for a friend or family member, it can be an emotional drain for everyone that is involved.

Make sure that you get rest and personal needs met as well. It can be hard to pull away in order to get sleep, but it is the best thing for all involved. Hygiene is something that can be forgotten in a crisis, but take time for yourself to be clean, calm, fed and rested.

A well rested support person gives much more to the situation rather than one who is not able to contribute anything except crankiness.

If you are taking any medicine, be sure to bring it with you in case you are supporting someone else for a long time, you will not miss a dose.


After the Crisis is Over, Have a Chat About What Happened

After the crisis, there may need to be some dialogue between you and the person that you helped. This may be due to the fact that you need to put some boundaries on what happened. An example is when I came to get a friend who was drunk. I came and got her, but I made it clear that this was a one time deal, and that she would not be able to call me again.

I followed up one week later, and she did not even remember who she called to get home. Make sure that the person you helped is aware of the situation and what your involvement will be in the future.

Take care of yourself as well. If you need to speak to someone, do. There are many different help and counseling options available out there. Make use of them!

Of course, certain incidents like car accidents and similar are not expected to be repeated, but there should still be a chat about what you did to help in case there is any information that needs to be shared.

When a friend was in a car wreck, we placed her dog with another friend until she was discharged a week later. When she was better a day or two later, we talked about where her pets were, who was handling affairs in her house and who would be bringing her home. Talking about what has happened allows the person to regain control over their life.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help When You Need It

Sometimes, a catastrophic event can impact a lot of people. After you have gathered information, determine if you, too will need help dealing with this.
My sister was in an accident that totaled her car. She called several people to help her. Our aunt, who was a few blocks away, her husband and myself. Between us we were able to arrange a rental car, get her children picked up from school and take her to the doctor.
Making sure that all of the events in the day are tended to is something really important when something major is going on. Taking care of your personal needs as well is something to consider when helping others. People will sometimes help if you let them know that you need help.

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