This week a tragedy hit very close to home for me. First, we never expect that bad things will happen to us or the people around us. Really bad things only happen to other people. We can feel compassion and know that we are safe from those things. We find a way to mitigate the possibility of accidents happening in our lives in whatever ways we can. We don’t take unnecessary risks or do things that could harm us. We do anything we can to keep tragedy at bay. But then it happens to you or someone you know. Tragedy became real very quickly for me, and there was little time to react or figure out what the best course of action to take would be.

My role in this series of events was to be supportive to the other person, who was in shock and grieving and not sure how to act much less how to move forward. I’ve been a therapist and a coach for a long time, so supporting others is a big part of what I do every day, but this was different. It’s one thing to support a person’s goals and to encourage them to do what they must do to stay authentic to themselves; it’s quite another to support a person to just make it through the day.

I felt helpless knowing that all I can do in the face of a tragic accident is listen. I can’t do anything to fix this or make it better. I can’t change the circumstances or turn back the clock. I can only grieve alongside others who are hurting. It doesn’t seem like enough.

And all around us, the world is going about its business as if nothing out of the ordinary has occurred. The sun still rises and sets, rush hour traffic is as bad as always, and bills still need to be paid on time. Only it’s true that life as I’ve known it will never be the same, and for the people who are touched by the tragic loss of a loved one, things will never return to normal. There will always be something missing from their lives. And long before they are ready, the people around them will expect them to be ok and to be finished feeling sad over something that happened in the past.

When tragic things happen in your life, you’re in it for the long haul. There are no vacation days or time off to think about lighter things. It becomes a part of how you live every day, how you wake up and how you go to sleep and how you do everything in between.

I am so grateful to the support network that I have because I can pull it close around me like a blanket to help me, and that allows me, in turn, to be supportive to others. It allows me the ability to reach out in the face of a tragedy to comfort others, even if all I can do is cry along with them.