How Do You Deal With All the Bad News?

July 30, 2014

Water Off A Rock
There are always terrible things going on in the world, but some weeks the bad news really weighs on me. I’m feeling it these days: Planes shot down, rising tensions with Russia, elevated violence between Israel and Palestine, Ebola virus spreading (and sickening or killing those trying to help), over half a million Iraqi Christians murdered or driven out of their homes as we speak.

Then there’s the stuff closer to home: A pregnant young mother of four (an alumna of a university I attended) just died of an aneurism following complications from a wasp attack. Our saintly pastor has stage four lung cancer. And this, while not tragic, is unsettling all the same: A family I know picking up their new children in China was stuck there for six days because of a worldwide computer meltdown affecting the U.S. embassy’s ability to issue visas. It all boggles the mind.

I know I don’t usually write about heavy subjects here, but I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering how much I should immerse myself in bad news, and how much I should focus on good news — or at least just my own life. There’s a balance to be had, and it can be hard to find in a 24-7 internet media world. Here’s what I tend to do when I encounter tragic or overwhelming news:

First, I ask myself if there’s anything I can actually do to change or help the situation, practically speaking. Most times there isn’t; sometimes I can send money, sign a petition, write a letter, or bring awareness by sharing it with others. Oftentimes, the only thing I can do is pray.

If I feel like I’m starting to get obsessed with bad news, I’ll decrease my consumption of media, including social media: I take a break from the news for a day or a couple of days, or simply don’t read every article about an event. Staying away from Facebook for a while helps, too!

I focus on my personal responsibilities. There are people who need me, people who depend on me; I try to give my attention to situations in my inner circles where I can actually make a difference — friends, family, work, church, neighborhood, city, the organizations I support, etc.

Most of all, I make an extra effort to be grateful, live in the moment, and cherish my loved ones. Every day is a gift; nothing is guaranteed, I know. I have first-world problems. When I remember this, it helps center me and live the best I can, which is all any of us can do in this beautiful and sometimes tragic world.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed by bad news?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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1 Christina July 30, 2014 at 5:37 pm

As an alumna of the same university, I know of the two families you mentioned. For the young mom who died…how tragic, what a freak accident, and in that I find some peace. Oh how the prayers are flowing for that family and their close friends, but there is nobody to blame in this passing for which I am grateful. Everything else you mentioned has also been so heavy on my mind and heart. I love being an empathetic and sympathetic person, but it does make me weary at times…it is a cross to bear occasionally. Of course, I pray and receive the sacraments – offering up for the family where I can, but when I get to the point of loosing sleep (which is a near occasion of sin for me) b/c of the stress these events bring to me, I go to a good book or movie like a BBC version of “Pride and Prejudice” or “Emma” or “Sense and Sensibility.”


2 Zoe Saint-Paul August 2, 2014 at 9:52 pm

There is indeed a place for distraction, especially when it comes to a good Jane Austen movie :-)


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4 Kelleyn August 1, 2014 at 11:23 pm

I think it is important to recognize the bad that is going on as it helps us appreciate the good. I know what you mean though as it can get very heavy. I spent a couple hours reading all I could on the plane crash. My husband asked me why and I told him that I felt like it is my duty to acknowledge all the lives that were lost. It could have easily been our family. Would I want someone to just flip the channel or read something so trival on the internet if our family had died. Anyway, that is kind of my take on that kind of thing. As in terms of those around us who are sick, I use them as good opportunities to teach my children about service.


5 Zoe Saint-Paul August 2, 2014 at 9:55 pm

I do the same thing. When something tragic happens and there are names and faces of victims, I look and read through them because I feel like it’s a way to acknowledge and honor these individual lives. They could easily be *my* friends and family and it doesn’t feel right to quickly click away and read some other piece of (often shallow) news.


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