How do you cope when you can't do anything?

Since I know some of you have been worried about me of late, I should say that this thread isn’t a “this is what’s going on in my life” kind of thing… it’s just something I’m curious about.

I was wondering how you all coped with things that you have little or no control over but which still make your world shatter a little bit. Finding out that someone you love was raped, or has tried to kill themselves, or was physically abused for years as a young child.

Stuff like that. I know they’re all different situations that require different things, but… the basic idea is that there’s not much you can do.

I guess what I’m asking is how you deal with being in the sidelines of tragedy, be it recent or in the distant past.


The best one can do, I think, is be there for that person. Be sensitive to things that might upset them, but in general, just be the good friend/family member that you’ve always been, with perhaps an extra dash of ear to lend/shoulder to cry on. That’s the best I’ve ever been able to come up with, anyway.

Psst, andy? I don’t have any helpful advice (well, other than “love the hell out of them”), but I’m gonna hang out here and see if any comes up, k?

If it’s something that happened in the past, there’s nothing you can do about it except offer a shoulder for them to wet when the memeories get bad. If they are telling you, it’s good, means you are trusted. It also helps them cope and it helps them assimilate it into their past. Just listen. If it’s recent, help make sure everything is done as it should be (I am talking criminal offenses here-you did mention rape) and BE THERE for them, be it family, a friend or otherwise. The only other advice I can offer is to help get them to see themselves as a survivior and not a victim. Ya can’t blame the present on the past. Don’t let them and don’t let them make you feel sorry for them. Be strong and listen. (Sorry for the somber post, but hey it’s a somber topic for me…a total non-professional)

I guess I should have made things a little more clear. What I mean is… well, they deal with it. Have dealt, are dealing. How do the people in the sidelines who aren’t holding up near as well cope?

This is a selfish question, I suppose. It’s not really your issue to deal with. Still… if it’s there, how do you deal with it?

How do you deal with it? Well, they are still the same person, just with more shit to deal with. You should feel honored they deemed you adult/cool/there at the time they relived it for them to share. For you to deal with it, you don’t really have to deal with it, unless they give you some specific instructions (i.e. don’t touch me like that…) Love them more than you had before cuz they opened up to you. They didn’t share to make you feel weird. (This is all coming from someone who has been the one telling others, not as one who’s had to deal with it ((yet,knock wood, I have kids)) so take me with a grain of salt please).


Talking it out with friends and/or family is a really good first step. This can, and often does, lead to some therepeautic tears being shed. Being hugged until the shakes go away helps a lot too.

FWIW, you’re not being the slightest bit selfish. We’re all here for you and you know it. :wink:

Ok I think I understand.

Say I’m the one all my friends come to when they need to talk. They’ve been through something horrible, abuse, rape, major depression, whathaveyou, and confide in me. If a lot of friends do this, it kinda puts me on emotional overload. They’ve dealt, and are sharing. But, now how do I deal?

I think that’s what andygirl’s getting at.

You put your words into something more than a phrase.

A Haiku

A Poem

Some Prose

A Song

A Story

A Play

An Obituary

Whatever you choose, choose to do so, make your feelings known. Show them and never be ashamed.

I’m probably not the best person to ask. I don’t cope well generally. When it’s my own problems I respond with drugs or alcohol. Other people’s problems, my first response is violence. It’s something I’m working on but my first instinct is still to find the person and bash their fucking face in. That doesn’t really solve anything does it.

It can be tough. At one end, you can try to distance yourself from them. Seperate yourself from humanity, see yourself as a non carer, someone who emotions have no effect on. That sometimes works in the short term, it has serious consequences in the long term.

When I lived in Wisconsin, I had a friend who worked at a battered women’s shelter. He was one of the most crass, rude, insensitive people I knew. He would make jokes about the people that came in, about Wisonsin’s “incest belt”, about all sorts of stuff. Why? Because otherwise the enormity of what he was dealing with on a daily basis would get to him and he’d break down sobbing. After a point, the distancing from emotions really got to him. He was a complete asshole, he really didn’t seem like he cared about anyone. At the same time, if that was what he was like he wouldn’t have gotten into his line of work.

The danger of getting involved is the stress and pain that you experience by being to close to the issue, you feel to much for your friends.
So, I don’t have any answers. Life sucks. Just don’t get too close, and don’t get too distant. Take up a sport maybe? Something you can work your frustration out on. Physicallity, so that you can channel any emotional turmoil into that. I recomend soccer. Just think of the ball as the rapist’s head, etc etc.
Sorry I couldn’t help more


I like oldie am one of the last people that should be answering this, so I’ll make it brief because I only have one thing to add.
If your friend was molested as a child, and you were fortunate enough not to be, go to your family, and thank them ( not for not molesting you, rather for providing you with a secure and loving home) If it was a death of a loved one for your friend, seek out those in your life that you have things you’ve been putting off saying to, and make sure they know everything you want them to know.
Make differences in your life. Make sure people know how you feel. it’s liberating and can be a release.

I know I am not as articulate as I would like to be, but I hope I made some sort of sense.

Actually, andy, in situations like you’ve described, where there’s really nothing one can do…I tend to cry a lot.

I’m a little like Zenster. I create. I write poetry, stories, plays, films. I paint, I draw, I write and play music. A lot of times my work is a release.
Except, a lot of times my work is more for me. I show it to people, but it’s more of a way for me to express myself than to tell another person how I’m feeling.
My grandmother has been suffering from what seems to be like, if not is, Alzheimer’s Disease. I wrote and made a short film trying to see things through her eyes (an expressionist piece). However, in the end it was from my point of view, and was to help me deal with it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I do now.
Currently my aunt, an amazing person, is dying from cancer. There’s nothing I can do, there’s little I can say with words. I’m making a tribute/documentary film about her life. Showing what an amazing person I think she is, and how much she’s affected my life.
I know these aren’t exactly the kind of situations you meant. They’re ones where I felt/feel helpless. I have known people in similar situations to the ones you mentioned. I would be there for them in every way I could, but when it comes to me dealing with it myself…this is what I do.

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. Busting heads is so tempting… my little squishy ball had better look out.

I just wanted to add my “I don’t know” to the pile, but with an added “I’ve been there.” A few years ago I learned that one of my family members had been gang raped. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever had to deal with. My most overwhelming thought was “Why couldn’t this have happened to me instead.” My secondary thought was “I will physically harm the people who did this.” All I can offer you andygirl is the reassurance that you will survive and hopefully your friend will too.

On a realistic note, be supportive should this thing ever hit the court room. That tends to be a real hard time for the victim.


The answer is, you do what’s needed.

That’s gonna vary from person to person and situation to situation, but you will know what it is when you love him or her.

You can never change the past.

But you can heal it.

There is something that can happen, somewhere, somewhen, that will make the horrendous thing that happened seem, not worthwhile, but somehow “redeemed.”

Find that thing.

Sometimes it merely means being there, present, quietly sharing the hurt without a word being said.

Sometimes it means finding the right song, the one that will help him or her work through the pain.

Sometimes it means just holding a hand.

Sometimes it means a conversation until dawn.

Whatever it is, you’ll know what to do when the time comes.

Then just do it.

You’ll never regret it.

What I personally do is go take it out on something, like a big log or some snow. Or I lift weights or just run like something faster is chasing me. I get things out that way.

I used to write stories about whatever pissed me off and have some character, who symbolized (either literally or figuratively) what I was pissed at, have really unfortunate things happen to them. But then someone found one, and I realized that the pain was still there so long as the story was still there.

I somewhat doubt that you’ve access to an axe or that you want to do 60-lb curls for a minute or so. Here’s my answer:

Do whatever seems natural to you.

I am the perfect person to ask. I have had the Bad Things happen, and so has my (ex) SO.

How do you cope? You make sure their life from now on will be good enough to make up for the past hurt.

You watch them like a hawk, to protect them, and make sure no one else abuses them - for once they have been a victim, they fall back into that role very easily sometimes. You make sure that they stay safe.

You also let the people know who did the act, if they are around, that you know, and you have recorded it all, and that they are walking wounded on borrowed time from now on. You let them know that whether or not you destory their lives depends on how far and how fast they get the fuck away.

With the sorts of things you are alluding to, such as rape, incest, or child abuse, there is one hard and fast rule regardless of the situation that you must keep in mind:


There will be no acceptance in any way, shape, or form of these fucked-up ass goblins into the life of the person who was hurt. You make sure of that. Repeat after me : in cases of child abuse, rape, incest,



I can still vividly recall the day I lost my first patient. He was a 3 month old boy, and he was dead when we got there, but I’ll be damned if we didnt do everything in out ability to save this child.

When I was woken up by our tones at 5:30 I would have swore that I heard a code blue (heart attack, not breathing) for a 17 year old girl. We all jumped out of bed and flew to our truck, getting dressed on the way. It took us about 3 minutes to get to the home that we were sent to, and I was all set to run a code on a 17 year old girl. I went into the home first to find an officer doing CPR on a 3 month old boy. Everything I was carrying in my arms immediately became useless. I droped it all, took the baby, and headed back out to my truck. My partners gathered out gear and we left to meet ALS (paramedics, I was a basic at the time) who was 5 blocks away. I jumped out the back of my truck and was immediately shuttled into the other ambulance. For 30 minutes I did CPR on this baby on the way to the hospital. On the way the paramedic entubated the kid but was unable to get an IV stated on the kid, so she attempted an IO on the baby, but it didnt flow. We picked up another paramedic from another truck on the way, and she tried several IV’s but could not get one, so she tried an IO on the other leg, but that one didnt flow either. During this time another person in the truck was shouting out 3 minute intervials to dump epi down the ET tube. at one of these 3 minute intervials I was removing the BVM from the ET tube to dump the epi down the tube when I took the adapter with the BVM off the ET tube. I freaked (I’d never played with ET tubes as a basic) so it took me about 20-30 seconds to get it back on after the medic wiped it with an alc. pad to prevent that from happening again.

the whole trip we never got an IV or IO, and we never got any ecg change or a heartbeat…the child we dead the whole time, nothing we could do for him. Just the same, we all felt horrible, especally when the family was told. Personally I’ve coped fairly well, I’ve realised that there was not anything I could do, and that even though I lost this child, theres one out there I’ll save…

andygirl wrote:

No this is not selfish. Caring and empathy are emotions that effect people deeply, and should be acknowledged as such, not avoided.
Guilt over feeling hurt for something that did not happen to you, particularly when the person it has happened to, has moved past the ‘hurt’ phase, is all to common in my experience.

If this is some one you love, I would suggest sharing how this makes you feel with them, being able to help you through your feelings can be good for both of you.

Keep on Caring