The storms may come and limbs may break;
Yet others bend beneath the weight
Of heavy rain and windy breeze…
A storm can mark the strongest trees.

Life sometimes deals with us this way;
In unseen trials we meet each day.
It’s not how much our bodies break
Or how much they may bend;
It’s our outlook in our own life
That helps our spirits mend!
— Hilen Letiro

The Storms that Assail Us

The Northeast coast of the United States was pummeled by Hurricane Sandy this past week. We knew it was coming but didn’t know where it would hit the hardest. Most people had time to prepare but did not know exactly for what. In the face of Sandy’s massive strength, we humans felt small and powerless. All we could do was - wait and see.

Each of us at some point in our life is going to be assailed by storms beyond our control, be it a natural disaster, the death of a loved one, an accident, a crime, an illness, or loss of livelihood. Our strength and resiliency, our core values and faith, our very humanness will be tested to its limits.

At times like this, all we have in our power is how we respond to a situation. The worst events can bring out the best in people. Listening to all the stories in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I was stuck by several themes, each an important lesson in how to face the storms that assail us.

1. Undergoing a traumatic event unites people at a very deep level. This common experience overrides all other differences. At a time when we feel most vulnerable and alone, this bonding is tremendously comforting and healing.

2. When you’re feeling powerless, find away to help others. Even if it means just holding their hand or sharing their tears, being useful is a sure way to regain some sense of empowerment.

3. Tap into gratitude. Whether it be gratitude that you are still alive, gratitude that you had the strength to hold on, gratitude for the first responders…  Opening your heart to a positive emotion when faced with so much difficulty restores one’s dignity.

4. When in the midst of survival mode, emotions are squelched out of necessity, leaving you feeling numb in the aftermath. Once you have safe footing, it is important to allow those feelings to be felt whether in the arms of a loved one or with the help of a professional.

5. Reclaiming your life and a regaining a sense of normalcy is going to take time. This isn’t a sprint but a marathon, so pace yourself. Create a road map to help you manage all the small steps that one by one will get you to the finish line.

Events like Hurricane Sandy give us great pause. Literally all the daily hustle and bustle that seemed so crucial is brought to a standstill. Life becomes about the basic necessities and our core values. It serves a reminder to simplify our lives and focus on what truly matters.