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Joy and Pain

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This past week I have seen and experienced the very beautiful and the very tragic. At times it felt as if it were happening all at once. At work this week, I planned a staff spirit week. These included a Holiday Sock Day, Pajama Day, an Ugly sweater day, and a toy drive. My goal was to bring a festive mood to the workplace. We closed the week with a team-building activity, and it was a blast.

At the same time, we experienced a tremendous tragedy. On Thursday, one of our employees, a bus driver for the students, had a medical emergency before starting his morning bus route. He didn’t make it. Suddenly I was thrown into a wave of emotion. I wasn’t close to the driver, but I saw him every day when he dropped off the students. I remembered him sitting next to me in a CPR class and being in my class when I was being certified for crisis management. I thought of his wife and three kids. Yet inside of the tragedy, I saw acts of beauty and generosity.

The company set up a Go fund me page for the family. We made a plan to deliver the news to the students who rode on his bus. This was a learning opportunity for me. We have a mental health department at our school, and I share an office with a therapist. I wanted to be a part of these meetings so I could learn. She told the students about his passing and then offered them the opportunity to make cards for his family.

It was compelling listening to some of the students reflect. Yet I also knew that for our students experiencing death wasn’t a new experience for them. I also believe that this is why many of our students reacted with compassion. They knew what loss feels like. They see the pain that it brings. They knew how to choose a contribution. One student went to the home of the driver and delivered the Christmas trees and holiday cards.

Life moves fast so fast; sometimes, you realize people are experiencing joy at the same time others are experiencing pain. This time of year if you turn on the tv we are told to shop and buy and buy. If you have Lifetime or Hallmark, you see sweet stories of people having a joyful Christmas. I am not down on Holiday Cheer. I do want to bring to light that even though the Holidays are a time of rejoicing for many people, it is a time of grief and tragedy. My wife and I had a devastating tragedy that occurred early on our marriage over the Holidays. So I can relate to the in pain. Even when we want to death and loss to take a day off, it doesn’t. What lessons did I learn? What can you do if you encounter someone in pain during the Holidays?

Each situation is unique so rather than give out specific advice here are some principles to follow-

Focus on the beautiful
Do something positive
Be Helpful
Contribute

Try to avoid giving advice or offering life lessons. Do something specific for a person-
For example, send someone a gift card to Postmates or bring a meal. When you are in pain, it is hard to think clearly, especially about your basic needs. Also, remember you aren’t going to take the pain away. You are merely there to offer support as someone walks through a painful time.

What about you? For me, I have experienced a great deal of loss. I absorb the emotions of the damage around me. A lesson I am learning, Feel the feelings, experience sadness doesn’t try to ignore it but pay attention to the stories they tell. Don’t hook into negative stories created by legitimate feelings. For me, I will begin to think that tragedy right around the corner. Creating an account of doom isn’t helpful; it creates unnecessary stress within your body. Instead, celebrate the joy that is in your life. Look around and count your blessings. If you are in pain, we see you and support you. Live a life in which you mourn for those who mourn and rejoice. I wanted to spread joy in my workplace with a spirit week. Below is a collage of some of the highlights. The toy drive was the event I was most proud of. Our staff donated toys and our students delivered them to the local fire department.

 

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