Imagine dozing in a hammock in the middle of a national park thinking that at that moment, all is right with the world. Then, all of a sudden, a bear sneaks up on you and drags you from the hammock and into the woods. You go from sleeping peacefully to awakening in intense pain experiencing a level of horror that is inconceivable. Imagine the terror of thinking that, in that moment, your life will end. You call out for help, certain that your voice will not be heard. Understanding the direness of your situation, you start to lose hope and consider letting go.
Then, when you are at your lowest point in the attack, with your head hanging from the jaws of a bear with blood coursing down your cheeks, someone comes charging out of the trees, shouting and screaming your name, to chase the bear away. The utter relief at that moment is overwhelming as is the knowledge that someone cared enough about you to face down a bear and say, “You will not take him.” That is the moment when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your life has value and you are worth fighting for.
These events unfolded recently in the mountains of North Carolina. News reports describe how a teenage boy was pulled from his hammock and dragged through dense underbrush by a male black bearing estimated to weigh 247 lbs. Fearing that his death was imminent, the boy was losing hope when his father faced down the bear and pulled him to safety.
It doesn’t matter if your bear is an actual black bear from the Great Smoky Mountains Park or if your bear is sudden grief or bereavement after learning of the death of a close friend. Having someone willing to come rushing to your aid has the potential to save your life. Just knowing that you are worth fighting for can make the difference in overcoming your challenges or giving up and sinking into the depths of despair. If you find yourself in a situation where hope is fading or grief is overwhelming, call out for help. Let the people around you know that you are suffering and in need of assistance. You might be surprised to know that many people are willing to face down a bear for you.
While some tragedies cannot be prepared for, such as a bear attack, it is possible to be ready to face other challenges. It is critically important to be healthy to help deal with unexpected physical, spiritual, or mental attacks. Taking time to care for yourself in good times means that in times of great stress, you will be more prepared and better able to deal with sudden situations when they arise. Be proactive in building a network of caring, supportive people. Family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and even strangers in a self-help group can offer experiential advice and support to your during difficulties.
In both sudden tragedy and anticipated tragedy, there is pain and bereavement. While the actual grief is not greater in sudden tragedy, the capacity to cope is diminished. Grievers are often shocked or stunned by the unexpected loss of a loved one and that sudden loss is so disruptive that recovery is almost always complicated. Grievers can experience extreme feelings of bewilderment, anxiety, self-reproach, and depression as there was no time to mentally prepare for and no time to gradually accept the impending loss. With a sudden loss, you are called upon to face a massive gap between the way the world should be, with your loved one or friend alive, and the way the world is now. Don’t face that moment alone. Let your support group be there for you. Do not allow yourself to be dragged off into the woods without calling out for help. Most importantly, never give up hope.