Life Lessons: What Tragedy Teaches Us

Monday Author:  Susanne Skinner

“Tragedy occurs in human lives so that we will learn to reach out and comfort others”  ~ C. S. Lewis

Flowers in Concrete, resilience, tragedyNine months ago, nobody saw a show-stopping virus coming, let alone a pandemic.  It arrived with a vengeance, forcing us to go beyond what we know. We waited, slowly absorbing the game changing impact of Covid-19.

The virus shows no mercy and the United States took a sucker punch. Schools and places of worship are closed, travel stopped, and live events are canceled for the balance of the year. People are dying.

Covid-19 is a tragedy offering us life lessons if we are willing to change and think long term.

Reality Sets In  

This is the harsh reality of any tragedy.  It arrives when we least expect it and catches us unprepared. Truth comes with a hard slap, a reminder of our mortality and life’s unpredictability. Up until the very moment it happens, we believe it happens to everyone but us.

Disaster jolts us into the present, telling us to make today the most important day. We begin to re-calibrate what is significant, recalling what we pushed aside until we have the time. 

People re-discover the law of unintended consequences when tragedy connects us to the lives around us, and the world we call home. Fate ties us together, reminding us how much we need each other. Isolation and quarantine invite us to engage in profound moments of reflection.

We vow to change and do better, to live differently when it is over.

New Ways to Be Kind

Love thy neighbor, tragedy, resilience, kindness, Covid-19The world stopped as we felt the weight of this virus. Like global cardiac arrest, we waited for the defibrillator to shock us back into normal. A normal that doesn’t exist anymore.

It slowed us but did not stop us. We found new ways to be normal. Kindness became part of our daily routine. A virus helped us met our neighbors. We began exercising with socially distanced walking and checking in through social media. Random acts of kindness found their way into birthday and graduation celebrations. Yard signs appeared. Drive-by shout-outs and mailbox cookie drops helped us feel less alone.

Our natural instinct is to care for others. We become chefs, sharing recipes and delivering meals. Neighbors connect in online book groups and Zoom yoga. A daily text reminds friends and family we love and miss them. We began to relax our standards—or as one colleague described it, “Business on the top, casual Friday on the bottom.”

A virus decimated my profession. I watched as the corporate events and hospitality industry began a slow death march. Each day I see colleagues report a job loss or post a request for assistance. I find myself offering support with resume updating, networking and old-fashioned outreach.

I get on calls and answer emails I might have ignored, realizing the caller or sender is working hard to grow opportunities that mean rent and food on the table. I might know someone who knows someone—we pay it forward.

We’re figuring out how to stay connected in a disconnected world.

 Rebounding and Staying Connected

Confined to my home and neighborhood brings a new cadence to daily life. The busy-ness I live with redefines itself when I can no longer get on a plane. Regular trips to Boston and Maine ended abruptly. In-person meetings reverted to one of the many web conferencing platforms and Amazon is my new best friend.

Staying safe means we’re staying apart. It’s hard. We’re working from home, starting new hobbies and sharing ideas to keep our sanity. Sourdough and sewing are trending.

Our brains have a hardwire connection to daily routines. Covid-19 forces us to step outside the familiar, creating new patterns to remain engaged and active. Fear and loss also move up the list, becoming emotions-in-residence. They kick us into support mode. Helping others keeps us connected and valued.

For the younger generation it’s slightly easier as they were born in the cloud. They are no strangers to the digital world. But the rest of us got a crash course in digital migration that came with a born-again baptism in the cloud. 

The High Cost of Prevention

My dad and sister live in an assisted living community that went into immediate lockdown six months ago. This pre-emptive measure kept them virus free. It also means my sister is unable to participate in the programs keeping her alert and active as she struggles with advancing Alzheimer’s.

Man alone, Man in Chair,  tragedy, lonelinessAs the months pass, I begin to realize two horrible truths. The first:  they could get sick (and die) and I will not be with them. The second is the awareness that my sister is struggling to remain in the present as continued isolation accelerates her dementia. It is a high price to pay for both of us.

Next month, family can visit in one-hour increments. I must have a negative C-19 test less than 72 hours old to enter Maine and the facility, remain six feet apart in a common area and wear a mask.

Tragedy Builds Resilience

Charles Darwin, responsive to change, strongest of speciesTragedy changes our perspective and leaves behind life lessons. We view the world one way before a tragedy and a completely different way after we live through it. Tapping into innovative and unused skills, we cope and survive.

Covid-19 sent us back to school to learn resilience. Mastering it means not letting setbacks define us. This virus is a relentless disruptor, teaching us to change, adapt and accept that we will not return to the way things used to be. We should not event try.

This isn’t going to be over anytime soon. The lesson for all of us is that this disruption is not temporary. It’s a new way of life.

This entry was posted in Health & Safety, Spiritual, Susanne Skinner and tagged , , , , , , by Aline Kaplan. Bookmark the permalink.

About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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