How Do Teams Overcome Tragedies?

Jul 11th 2012

Why do tragedies happen? Is there any way to minimize them or stop them all together? How can we overcome them? Could they all be averted with free will and discernment? Why do they seem to usually injure the innocent or positively contributing people? There are so many questions that we could ask that the list would be unlimited.
I don’t know any human being who has not been impacted by some tragic event or circumstances, and yet meaningful relationships always seem to come out of them as our only way to cope, heal, or recover.  It seems to remind all of us of life’s uncertainty, sacredness of human life, and the need to always pray daily for protection around anything you love or cherish.

Within my own personal experiences, I have been faced with a devastating illness to my older brother early in his adult life, the accidental passing of classmates while a cohort, a neighborhood teenage suicide, and a freak accidental killing of one of my life’s best friends at 39…..either way you never forget any of them and your level of pain is the scale of love you feel toward the injured party.
What about organizational tragedies that devastate entire teams? Can they recover, forgive themselves, and stay together, maybe even becoming stronger because of it?
Despite all of the amazing miracles, diligent work of teammates,  great outcomes for thousands of customers that define what we perceive as success, I still have witnessed three tragic events as part of the current organizational team. Each one bringing all of us to our knees so that I will never forget the moment we realized what had happened, a loss on our watch, that never really goes away….
One was over ten years ago where a tragic fire, started by a resident visitor, that took a life during our bus trip across the country. That event unified much of our team, changed relationships forever, made our center a close knit family. After reviews by many independent outsiders, there was nothing we could have done, but the guilt and depression hit every teammate.  Because of that event,  many of the orginal on-site leaders are still together, as prayer partners and friends, adding many additional safety measures beyond any policy, just always keeping their eyes open.
Almost seven years ago, we lost a resident in a wheelchair fall down a stairwell that pained every team member, but boy did we all become close, grievingtogether, and realizing that even if you follow every healthcare policy for resident safety, something disastrous can still happen the second you turn the other way.  Years later, the core team became one of our best, still together, serving hundreds and hundreds of people and impacting their communities like the Mission and vision said it would.
Several weeks ago, me and my team were hit again. A great customer that the entire team loved passed away in a terrible fall that we may never know all that happened.  So many questions. Everyone in tears, dealing with hurt in different ways, memorial services planned, grief counseling for all, much of the team in group prayer, other centers chipping in, and investigations from every angle to make sure we did everything right, but in the end, it still is a crushing below either way because you always feel you own it or could have done something different and the looming disaster could have passed over you……..
My only solace in quiet reflection is to love everyone you can, watch for any signs of danger, keep your eyes open at all times, pray for protection around you and your team daily, and know that the deeper you grieve and embrace the personal hurt, the more you feel a part of it. We can at least start the healing process knowing we are never the same.

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