To Work or Not to Work in the Face of Tragedy

In While You Were Sleeping, Sandra Bullock’s Character, Lucy, saves Peter’s life and gets pulled into the warmth of his family due to some lack of communication.  In this romantic comedy, Peter spends most of the movie in a coma, with his family and Lucy, close by.

I’ve spent my summer on the lake with my friends.  On Labor Day, my friends’ son was in a near fatal accident.  He’s now home, and on the fast track to a full recovery.  But when it happened, the only similarity to a “romantic comedy” was that friends and family were all around.  

I watched a father helplessly hold his son in his arms, not knowing if he would survive. I listened as a mother wailed and screamed.  I felt the fierce protective love of a big brother, who wouldn’t leave his bedside and watched over his monitors all night.  I experienced the love of so many family members and friends who came to the hospital to pray for him and comfort his parents.

Before he even went in for surgery, I had two client calls, a training call I was giving, and the day after his surgery I had to give a webinar. Now granted, I am not his immediate family, but my heart was still breaking to see him in pain and watch his parents practically helpless.  I was praying with everything I had.  I was emotional, scared, staying strong for everyone so they could break down, and… I had to work.  

Most people with regular 9-5 jobs, can take off a week of work in the wake of a tragedy, but in our industry, we don’t always have that flexibility.  People are counting on us, money is being spent on us, and fear of someone else replacing us, makes these times especially challenging for entertainment professionals.

I remember when Sandra Bullock’s mother passed away on the day of her premiere for 28 Days.  My heart was breaking for her as the tabloid news made her “will she or will she not attend her own premiere” the top story for hours on end.  She did not attend the premiere, and I was glad to see she didn’t.

We are constantly faced with tough choices in our industry and saying yes or no to work, or an important commitment can be extremely stressful, so here are some tips that I hope help:

1.    Remember that people are empathetic.  If you share what you are going through, most ‘humans’ will be understanding.
2.    Have a list of trusted replacements.  If you know you want to miss work to be with family/friends, before you make the call, find a trusted replacement who you can present to your boss.
3.    If you must work through the tragedy, do your very best to stay in the moment. On my webinar, I actually incorporated what was happening in my life to inspire and motivate the participants to take action and change their lives!
4.    Reach out to a friend or family member who can comfort you and keep you updated.

1.    The only action I have for you is to express your love as often as you can because every moment of your life is precious.

Lucy did go to work while Peter lay in his coma, but let’s face it, that’s a movie.  Real life can be extremely challenging, so be gentle with yourself.