Mental Preparedness: Having a Response Plan for the Bad Things in Life Can Make it Better

Recently, I was in a car wreck. It totaled my little Honda and banged us up pretty badly. About 8 years ago, I was in another car wreck. I needed surgery after both of those accidents, and neither was my fault. After the accident 8 years ago, I was sure it would never happen again. You know, like the idea that lightning never strikes the same place twice? Well, that is a myth. Lightning CAN strike twice.

That is a scary thought for people who have suffered through trauma. What if it happens again? Can it happen again? Will it happen again?  Now, I live with the knowledge that bad things can happen more than once. And I am prepared. That kind of sounds like a ridiculous thing for me to say, doesn’t it? That I am prepared for tragedy?

There are 3 basic steps in my mental preparedness for trauma.

1. The first step in mental preparedness for trauma is: Recognize that it can happen again.

This is in regard to ANY type of trauma. Lightning. Tornadoes. Car wrecks. Divorce. Infidelity. Disease. Assault. It can happen more than once. And I am living proof that it can. So, get past the idea that it’s all one and done, you survived a trauma, now nothing bad will ever happen again.

Bad things happen. Over and over. To good people and to rotten people. Some of the bad things are more like little annoyances, but some of the bad things are severe and leave behind tremendous damage. 

Yes, you have probably met people that look like they have never had a bad day if their life, or they have sailed through life on some fluffy white cloud above the storms of life. But that is a lie!

EVERYONE suffers. Every single person has suffered a trauma of some sort. We are all broken. And we all suffer in life. That is a part of the human condition.

The second step in mental preparedness for trauma is:

2. Think about it happening again.

This step sounds hard, but it is easier than you might think. The first step is the hardest, that is where your mind shift must take place. Once you know that bad can and will happen again, in some form or other, then you can be more mentally prepared. Knowledge truly is power.

The problem with the second step is the possibility of freaking yourself out. I do NOT want you to sit and dwell on tragedy, or sit and think about being assaulted over and over. Absolutely not! Don’t do that. This step is more about saying to yourself, “Okay, ___ happened, and it can happen again. I remember how it felt the last time, and I lived through it. When tragedy happens again, I will make it through that one, too, whatever it is!!”

Then breathe deeply. And remember the calm after the storm. Remember how strong you are and how you survived! Think about how you have faced difficult times before and you will face them again, but you are stronger and wiser now. 

The third and final step in mental preparedness for trauma is:

3. Have an action plan for positive steps afterwards.

The best action plan focuses on people. Take time to know your community resources. Local resources are available through governments, churches, and organizations. Help is out there, you just sometimes have to go and find it for yourself.

The other part of the third step is knowing the people in your life that are supportive. WHO can you talk to? WHO will be your support? WHO will be there for you? Be active and make connections to the people in your life that you know will support you and be there for you. (The flip side here is that you will become their support in their time of crisis. You will get to help someone else along the way!)

You need to live your life as if tragedy will never happen again but be prepared and have a plan anyway. As a final note, there is something peaceful about recognizing that tragedy will happen again. When you realize that suffering happens, then it takes some of the sting out, it removes some of the fear, it negates a bit of the worry.

And when suffering, fear, and worry is lessened, then there is more room for the happy, the good, the joy. Less bad, more good - that is, after all, the goal. Along the way, as you become more prepared for the bad, you will recognize and appreciate the good in your life even more. That is the best way to live a life of gratitude.