One of the many things that life promises us are both the peaks of joy and the valley of a crisis. Whether emotional, physical, spiritual or mental, crisis comes in all shapes and forms. This is not something to fear when there is hope for a better tomorrow and you have the skills and knowledge to work through a crisis.

My crisis hit when I learned my sister had been brutally tortured, taken captive, and murdered, just days before Christmas.

My life has never been the same, and I am committed to helping others be ready to help people through crisis. That’s why I put together the “5 Critical Emotional 1st Aid Principles” that helped me survive and continue to fill me with hope every day. Applying these steps in your own life and offering them to others will bring hope and healing that so many of us desire.

1. FINDING YOUR SUPPORT PILLARS

In this crisis of my sister’s death, I was the go-to person and the rock for everyone in my family, even for those who I did not have a strong relationship with.

Because I was the rock, I had very little support for myself. I knew that if I showed weakness the whole system would fall apart and the last thing I wanted was for my family to spin out of control.

My peace came in seeking out trusted friends that I could lean on. These women would listen and remind me that I could not take on everyone’s pain. It was just as important for me to talk about the murder, the family dynamics, my own guilt, and the need to support my family. These women gave me permission to just feel, to express my pain, frustration, and anger, without judgment.

It’s amazing how just talking about a situation helps. Speaking about the pain in a safe environment with no judgment was a relief. These ladies have become responsibility partners that provide an outside perspective on many situations. We share each other’s burdens, hopes, and dreams. More importantly, they are not relatives but sisters in Christ.

When facing a crisis event, having those friends or supporters who can walk with you is critical. 
If you are not the one in crisis, you can be that friend for someone else. Start by finding someone that you can authentically share with how you are feeling and thinking or if you already have that, try finding someone that you be a listening ear and support for.

2. REALIZING TIME DOES NOT HEAL WOUNDS

The old saying that time heals all wounds is a false and destructive statement. It implies that our issues will simply disappear one day in the future. This is a problem when we realize that healing is so much more than the idea of forgetting and moving on.

We could debate the word “heal”, but for me, the time allowed for me to change my perspective and it was after that happened, I saw the healing taking place.

As time went by, the event was not so raw in my emotions. The shock wore off. I compare the healing process to a cut on the finger. At first, you are aware of the immense pain and shock, depending on how bad the cut is. Even after the initial triage, the wound remains sensitive to the touch.

I wish I had been able to see the damage in my brain at each moment, but I couldn’t. To see the stages of healing on a finger is easy, but in the brain, you don’t have that clear perspective.

The passing of time helped me to gain more information and organize the events in my brain, making better sense of what happened. Perhaps I  will never understand the big question, “Why?” But with time, I was able to accept what happened, and safely move on with my life. It wasn’t about forgetting, it was about acknowledging what had happened.

3. GOD WAS MY ROCK

I leaned on God. God was the constant in my darkest hours. We say so casually that God is always with you. You may have a mental awareness of God being with you but many don’t understand the depth of that truth. The support, love, and character of God is the primary reason I have come out on the other side of this tragedy. Not because of anything I have done, but what He has done in me.

I  didn’t always feel His presence along the journey and that was okay.

Even when I was in my darkest pit, I could still see. Why is that? I could see the pain, the hurt, the overwhelmingness of the totality of our situation because there was light. God was standing with me in the darkness and I could identify each and every situation of pain. God lit the way so I could see what was all around me. Then he gave me the courage to approach each of the emotions and overcome them.

God led me to take small steps to reach each of those dark obstacles and then overcome them, one by one.

He would then light up the issue He wanted me to work on right now. Once I surrendered to His will he created a pathway of healing, one far better than I could have mapped out for myself. God loved me so much that at times his comfort was still and only illuminated my current place. I knew then it was a time to rest. Stop and slow down. Build up my strength to tackle the next issue. He knew best that the next step would be more than I could handle. So he stopped, held me back and fortified me with his protection and strength. Then and only then would the light of Christ illuminate the next step.

When I had the feeling of darkness and couldn’t see a way forward, I turned to scripture. For instance, Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still my child and know that I am near. Take rest in my presence. For I am building you up for the next fight”. Praise God for His word, this scripture gave me hope and favor throughout the lonely days in my journey.

4. VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME

You heal more when you help others. When you get out of yourself and give to others is when you get filled up the most. It doesn’t matter what it is, just do something. Each situation teaches something new about yourself, the world, and family.

The best thing I did was look to help others. I started to ask God, “What do you want me to do with all of ‘this’?” Two years had passed and I was feeling the tug that God was calling me to use what I had learned to help others. I went through a process of learning and exploring before I began to start my own career centered around crisis response.

I started helping in a program to support children from going into foster care. A respite program that gave parents time to get their act together and then be able to be reunited with their children. Then I went into biblical counseling, then onto crisis intervention.

Each venture was a step in healing but also in learning. Each opportunity to serve strengthened me and led me closer to what I felt was my purpose.

After years of observing how crisis intervention worked in the world, I discovered a component that was missing. God. That’s when I wrote a program that married crisis intervention with God’s promises and created Seeking Hope. I am still involved in volunteer projects. I continue to learn each day and thank God for his infinite wisdom to know what I need.

5. GO WORKOUT

My emotional well being was very much determined how I felt physically through out each day. Many people struggle to stay physically healthy when they are emotionally damaged.

My first day back at the gym, I walked into class, somber and fighting my inner questions of, “Why am I here? I don’t want to be here…yes you do…you have to stay.” As I was getting set up for class a friend came up and said, “Did you hear what happened”? I thought to myself, “Of course I had…it was my sister. Are you kidding me?”

I was so preoccupied with my own issues I didn’t even think of any other issue that could be going on in the world. I immediately started to cry and left the room. As she followed me out, she said, “Yes, it’s troubling, but we’ll find another gym.” The gym had given notice in my absence that it was closing. I became acutely aware that my pain wasn’t everyone else’s pain and that the world keeps moving on.

Responsibilities keep going on, even in the midst of a crisis. Most jobs, friends, and associates understand a crisis and give you some space for a short time. But that doesn’t last. I had to force myself to get up and get moving once again.

Everyone wants to help in a crisis and meals are the easiest and most common way to show love and support. But I have to say, if I ever saw another pasta casserole again in a year it would be too soon. We were grateful for all the support and resources but we just couldn’t do another pasta or pizza again. That much starch when you are feeling emotionally drained is so hard on the system. When I started to make meals, with solid protein, fresh vegetables, and fruits, I started to feel better, it was vital to my emotional stability.

Once I reflected and processed these “5 Critical Emotional 1st Aid Principles” My life has never been the same. Applying these principles in your own life and offering them to others will bring hope and healing that so many of us desire.