SURVIVING THE CRISIS OF LIFE

Everyone experiences crises in their lives. When we choose to love someone, we must accept the possibility that we may lose that person to death or separation. Since crises are an inevitable fact of life, it’s important we know how to survive them. We must prepare for them and be prepared to help others when they go through them.

The Crisis Opportunity: During a crisis, we are thrown off balance, and the crisis represents a turning point for better or worse. If we cope effectively, we can strengthen our potential for a rewarding life. It can be an opportunity that enriches our personality by helping us shake off old habits and establish new ones.

Crisis and Illness: 93 percent of all major illnesses were associated with life changes whose value totaled at least 150 points annually. Not every major life change or crisis produced illness, but several of them together could add up to do so. Of persons with life changes totaling 150-199 points, 37 percent had an illness. When changes totaled 200-299, it was 51 percent; over 300 points, 79 percent became ill. Life events that appear to affect our health, with the point values assigned to these events, are listed here:

Life Event Values

Death of spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Jail term 63
Death of close family member 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Fired at work 47
Marital reconciliation 45
Retirement 45
Change in health of family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Sexual difficulties 39
Gain of new family member 39
Change in financial state 38
Death of close friend 37
Arguments with spouse 35
Mortgage over $10,000 31
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Son or daughter leaving home 29
Trouble with in-laws 29
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Wife begins or stops work 26
Begin or end school 26
Change in living conditions 25
Revision of personal habits 24
Trouble with boss 23
Change in work hours or conditions 20
Change in school 20
Change in recreation 19
Change in church activities 19
Change in social activities 18
Mortgage or loan less than $10,000 17
Change in sleeping habits 16
Change in family get-togethers 15
Change in eating habits 15
Vacation 13
Minor violations of the law 11

First Stage: Denial. The doctor tells a wife that her husband is dying. “No, not me — it cannot be true” is her first reaction. Our first response is usually denial: “It can’t be true.” We say to ourselves, “It won’t happen! It just can’t happen! God wouldn’t let this happen to us after we’ve faithfully served Him.”

Second Stage: Anger. “Why me?” usually follows the denial stage. Someone asked a widow, “Why are you so angry over your husband’s death?” The widow quickly and angrily replied, “I am not angry. Why do you say that?” After arriving home, she pondered her friend’s statement and recognized that she really was angry. Admitting her anger helped her move on to the next stage.

Third Stage: Bargaining. After dealing with anger, an individual may think that if he talks nicely or bargains with God, God may change His mind. Bargaining is often used when divorce is involved. An individual may say, “I promise I won’t step out on you again if you will give me another chance.”

Fourth Stage: Depression. This is the most difficult stage. The depressed individual needs careful attention because he believes he cannot do anything to relieve his suffering. Depression may involve retreating, shrinking or withdrawing, or even committing suicide. An individual going from one lifestyle to another descends into a valley that may be compared to the “valley of the shadow of death” mentioned in the Twenty-Third Psalm. The Psalm says that we do not walk through this valley alone because God is with us. Though a husband or a wife is gone, we are never alone. God is with us during each stage of life’s journey.

Fifth Stage: Acceptance. If a patient has had enough time (i.e., not a sudden, unexpected death) and has been given some help in working through the previously described stages, he will reach a stage in which he is neither depressed nor angry about his ‘fate. Acceptance should not be mistaken for a happy stage. It is almost void of feelings. It is as if the pain and struggle is over, and there is a time of rest before the long journey. There are a few patients who fight to the end, who struggle and keep a hope that makes it almost impossible to reach this stage of acceptance. They are the ones who will say one day, ‘I just cannot make it anymore.’ The day they stop fighting, the fight is over. In other words, the harder they struggle to avoid inevitable death — the more they try to deny it — the more difficult it will be for them to reach this final stage of acceptance with peace and dignity.

Counseling Those in a Crisis: A crisis is a disruption in a person’s state of stability by a disturbing situation. Just as we need to talk about death, there is a need to discuss divorce because divorce is the death of a relationship. Understanding where we are in a crisis helps us evaluate our emotions. It helps to vent our emotions into nondestructive channels. Life changes such as death and divorce have a stressful effect upon people. Negative responses to these stresses lead to physical illness, emotional illness, or possibly suicide. Positive responses can strengthen our potential for a rewarding life and enrich our personality. Reaching the stage of acceptance in a crisis helps our faith to grow and develop. As Christians, we have a certain or “sure” hope. In Hebrews 6:19, we read: “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast …”

There is nothing — no circumstance, no trouble, no testing — that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment. But as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift my eyes up to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret, for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is. That is the rest of victory.

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