In A Time of Collective Grief, How To Cope With World Tragedy

October 9, 2023


We are absolutely devastated and gutted by the horrific acts of terror and violence happening in Israel. As an organization focused on helping people navigate grief and loss, we reached out to our friend and grief expert Claire Bidwell Smith to share some things we can do to help process our feelings and take care of ourselves in the midst of this terror. For every Israeli, for Jewish individuals globally, for those taken and lost, for their loved ones, and for the countless innocent Palestinians who will face the repercussions of this violence, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone suffering.

Acknowledge Your Feelings.

When we are able to acknowledge our feelings and allow ourselves to experience all that arises for us, we are better able to regulate our emotions and also honor the reality of the situation. Pushing our feelings away and trying to muscle through a difficult experience typically results in misdirected anger and unwanted anxiety. We have to let ourselves grieve. We have to feel the rage. We have to move through the fear and anxiety. It’s important to remember that it’s really normal to feel this stuff. Give yourself permission to feel shock, sorrow, numbness, fear, anger, disillusionment, and grief. These events can truly take a toll on us. You might have trouble sleeping, concentrating, eating, or going to work. You also may have grief or traumatic events from your past that resurface. So just start there. Give yourself permission to feel it all. And permission to get help if you need it. That’s normal.

You Might Feel Numb.

It’s also normal to feel numb sometimes. Becoming desensitized is a coping mechanism. It’s your body’s way of saying it just can’t handle any more tragedy. This may feel weird when everyone around you is grieving. But try not to put pressure on yourself to feel or act one certain way. That said, if you think you are pushing emotions away out of fear of feeling them then seek support so that you can adequately process all that is coming up for you.

Self Care is Essential.

Taking care of yourself may seem indulgent during a time when others are suffering, but remember that you will be able to better regulate your emotions and contribute more to the world around you if you are taking proper care of yourself. Go for a walk, cook a nourishing meal, read a novel, listen to music, call a friend, take a bath, meditate. I know it can feel hard to do some of these things in the wake of a tragedy. But remember that it’s not that you don’t care about what happened or that you’re being selfish by focusing on yourself. It’s simply that you’re taking care of yourself so that you can better address what’s going on in the world around you. 

Talk To People You Trust.

I have a couple of friends that I always call in times like this, because I know we can cry together, we can comfort each other. We take turns bolstering each other when one of us is feeling hopeless or anxious. It can also help to feel useful, even if there’s nothing you can directly do to help with the tragedy itself. 

Stay Active.

It’s hard not to give in to checking the news over and over. But, you’ll need to take a break. Go and do some good deeds somewhere. Volunteer in your community. Go hang out with some elderly people who need company. Check in to see if your local schools need any support. Get involved in a cause. The world is also full of good people doing good. Doing any and all of these things can lift us out of the heavier feelings of depression and hopelessness.

Talk To Your Children.

For those of you with kids, talking with them about what happened can actually help them feel safer, can help them understand what’s happened and it can help them begin to cope. Your silence around the event can actually make them feel more threatened. When you’re talking to preschool kids, get down to your child’s eye level. Speak in a calm voice. Using words your child understands. Explain what happened, and that you’ll keep caring for them. For older children, use gentle words and offer comfort. Encourage them to share any worries, reassure them that they’re safe. You should consider your child’s age when you’re sharing details about the tragedy. Listen to their understanding of the event from misinformation, misconceptions and underlying fears. And remember that it’s okay for them to see you grieve. This is how we role model healthy emotions.

Be Compassionate With Yourself.

I know this is a lot. It’s so much and sometimes it seems like we are coping with one tragedy after another. It’s easy to feel hopeless during these times. I feel it too. I have to work really hard on a regular basis, to process all of the stories of grief and loss and tragedy that I hear on a regular basis in my work. And I know that when I don’t take proper care of myself and when I don’t check in with myself about how much I can handle, I start to fall apart. So above all, remember to be compassionate with yourself. It’s okay to feel sad and stressed and angry. It’s okay to despair and to question life itself. It’s also okay to just get really present and focus on your life. And it’s even okay to have happy moments too. And it’s more than okay to ask for help. 

Claire Bidwell Smith is a therapist specializing in grief and the author of multiple books including Conscious Grieving and Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief and her work has created new and innovative ways to heal and transform through her grief and loss. Led by her personal  experiences with grief and fueled by her work in hospice and private practice, Claire strives to provide support for all kinds of people experiencing all kinds of loss. Claire offers numerous programs in addition to working with people one-on-one, as well as training other clinicians to work in the field of grief and loss. Claire has been featured in and written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Scientific American, The LA Times, CNN, MSNBC, Forbes, The Today Show, Goop, Oprah Magazine, and Psychology Today. She deeply loves her work and is devoted to expanding the conversation about grief and loss. Learn more at

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