Working Through Tough Times and Tragedy


Tragedy drains you like nothing else does.  It takes away your happiness, your time, your concentration and sometimes, at least temporarily, your sanity.  But, as a professional person, there are often time limits put on how long you have to recover from tragedy before you are expected to be back to work. This is the society we live in.  And though this is difficult for anyone, there is an added layer of difficulty when your work requires you to be creative.

For me, to write novels or scripts, I need to feel creative.  My mind needs to open so my imagination can breathe life into my work.  But, I don’t always feel creative. Not when I’m unhappy or suffering.  Sometimes, the thing that gives me so much joy, my writing, becomes a laborious process that I dread.   But, in my opinion, this is where you need to be both gentle on yourself and strict with yourself at the same time.

If you have been working professionally as a writer then you are writing every day.  You have a routine or process.  It’s like “muscle-memory” with dancing or martial arts.  You move because you know the steps.  Maybe the writing won’t be great, but your body needs to show your mind that you can still function.  Until, one day, your mind joins in and you are creative again, loving what you do.  You exercise a routine of writing so, even if it doesn’t come easily, it can still occur.


Be kind to yourself during this time. Be patient with yourself.  Don’t  give up and stop just because the work isn’t flowing or maybe is even awful.  Be proud that you are functioning.  Don’t beat yourself up over quality or quantity.  Move slowly into the rhythm of your life and find where things go now.  You can’t have tragedy and think life will be the same. It won’t be.  So you will need to adjust to that.  If it’s a momentary tough time, tell yourself that “This time next year, this will be behind me.”  Give yourself permission to be imperfect and make mistakes, but don’t allow yourself to slip into procrastination or giving up entirely.

I have a laundry list of horrible things that have happened this year, the worst being my 24 year old nephew falling asleep behind the wheel less than a minute from home and losing his life.  It is so alluring to just stop.  To give in to the feeling that you just can’t be creative.  It is at this time that you must rely on the relationships you’ve nurtured and depend on.  Have a support system in place to help you when you’re down, or to help you help yourself.  Sometimes it’s just good to know that you’re not alone, or that someone recognizes how hard things must be for you.


When things are tough it’s not always easy to be yourself.  So don’t be.  Be who you are, going through this tough time.  Be who you are, after a tragedy.  Tough times change you.  You don’t get to be who you were before.  Now you choose to see your own courage and strength and be your own hero.  Choose to let go of pride or any other obstacle that keeps you from seeking help.  Choose to keep moving forward even if the words aren’t quite right.  Even if you can only write 100 words in a day.

Be kind to yourself.  Let others be kind to you.

The fog will clear and you will start to feel more grounded to life.  One day that creativity will just show up, because it lives inside of you.  It always has.  Love the person you are now and be grateful for the strength you found in yourself.

Have you ever had to work through a tough or tragic time?  What did you do to help yourself through it?


About Sheila Clover English

International speaker, business woman, author, mother, wife and owner of seven dogs. I love people, am an advocate for animals and stay up too late at night reading books.
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12 Responses to Working Through Tough Times and Tragedy

  1. Mary Everett says:

    My tragedy happened when my husband had surgery to try to stop his seizures. After the surgery a blood vessel broke loose and he had a bleed into his brain. He was severely brain damaged. There were weeks in the hospital that I stayed by his side. At that same time I had to work full time as a nursery nurse. My father in law would come to stay with him while I ran home for a shower and change of cloths. He stayed while I worked my shift and then came back to care for Dale. I went for weeks with catnaps that I could catch in the hospital chair. BTW the surgery failed to stop any of his seizures.
    When I was on duty all my attention had to be given to the fragile new lives I was responsible for. Babies conditions can change in a heartbeat. Mothers needed help and encouragement. I had to be totally focused on my patients and I had to let personal tragedy go. In a way that did help.
    To tell the truth I don’t know how I made it through that mentally and physically intact. The next year of helping my husband through therapy and brain injury classes wasn’t easy either. He did manage to regain some independence. He was able to dress and feed himself. For a while he was even able to walk in the park with his little dog.
    Life after that became easier although someone had to be with him at all times.
    Although it was hard on his family, It was much harder on Dale. He had already faced a lifetime of disability with dignity and courage. He tried to be as independent as possible as his seizures increased in severity. He passed away in 2009 with me by his side. We grieved his passing but we were also comforted that he had been given the relief he prayed for. Death is not always the worse tragedy in a situation like his.

  2. Mary Hughes says:

    Wise words, Sheila. Mary, I am so very sorry to hear about your husband. My profound sympathies. Your strength during such an incredibly difficult time is amazing.

    My mom passed away when I was 16. I kept by going to school and participating in activities, because I didn’t know any better. Things were wooden inside me, yet everyone else was acting the same, as if nothing happened. I remember the oddest thing–television laugh tracks were still laughing but the jokes weren’t funny. Years later, life warmed up and jokes were funny again 🙂

    • “…television laugh tracks were still laughing but the jokes weren’t funny.” That really struck a chord with me. It still feels like that to me.
      It is hard when everyone around you acts the same, but inside you know you can never be the same. It’s that “outside yourself” feeling.

  3. Edie Ramer says:

    Sheila, last year, Liz’s passing hit me hard. I ended up putting her in a book. Both the heroine and her best friend – who was dying on cancer – had parts of Liz’s personality. They even lived in the same neighborhood. And the heroine looked like her. I think it was my way to keep her alive. And since then (and before), there have been smaller things happen that derail me. I’ve learned to keep going, but sometimes I don’t do as well. I just have to give myself permission to get through that.

    I just want to add that a year ago we lost two dogs, and that’s a heartbreaker, too. I still miss them.

    Mary, my sympathies on your husband’s passing. And, Sheila, how tragic to lose your nephew. My condolences.

    • Edie, I know what you mean. Liz’s passing is still hard for me. She was such a larger-than-life personality and made such an impact on me. She was my very first critique partner and always encouraged and supported me.

      The end of last year I lost my beloved Chloe, the best little pet you can imagine. I still cry when I think about how much I miss her.

      I love that you have a character inspired by Liz. What book is that?

      • Edie Ramer says:

        Sheila, it’s Truth About Love & Murder. If you’d like me to send you a print copy or an email copy, let me know.

        And I’d be happy to send you a print copy of When Darkness Falls by Liz. It’s the book her old CPs published after her death. I have print copies in which her name and the title aren’t on the spine (an error by the cover artist that none of us caught until I got them in the mail). I’d love to send them to people who loved her. It’s an awesome read.

        So sorry about Chloe. 🙁

  4. Jai Clark says:

    Sheila.I’ve known much tragedy. I have to say the unexpected death of a child is so difficult. I have a pen pal in another country. My daughter and her daughter were also pen pals. We become very good friends and visited often. One day she called me her child was sick on the couch. I told her to take her to the hospital. She died..quickly and without a reason. I was on the phone with her. I felt her screams in the very core of my being. This broke up her marriage. We stayed close. Since I had a younger daughter she sent me all of her child’s little dresses. They smelled like her and as I put them on my daughter, I wept. I could her daughter there. I took off the dress. I got scissors and cut them to shreds. I couldn’t handle it. Then I had made a mess. I left it right where it was. The next day was a new beginning. I knew I had done something ugly. I wanted beautiful back. I took those shreds and made a beautiful quilt out of it and mailed it too her.When I visited and my friend got married we went to her grave and took pictures of my friend in her wedding dress to share the event. I wanted the world to stop and miss that little girl like I did. Like her mom did. I held what she lost every day because I still had my daughter. It was hard that year but it gets easier to remember good times with her as time goes by.

    • That is so heartbreaking. I know what you mean. I wanted to world to stop too and to miss Anthony like I do. Even for just a while. But, things don’t work that way.
      You move on because there is no other choice. But moving on doesn’t mean you have forgotten.

  5. I’m very sorry for everyone’s losses. Unfortunately, loss, tragedy, and heartache touch us all.

    It can definitely be hard to keep on going with your job and your daily, regular life when tragedy strikes. But sometimes, I have found working to be a good thing too, a way to do something normal for a little while.
    Jennifer Estep`s last blog was …Writing the seasons into books …

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