Why it’s important to acknowledge pain and heartbreak — before moving on to optimism and action
When there’s a tragedy in the world — a natural disaster, an act of violence, or something completely unprecedented — it’s hard to know how to respond.
And to be honest, there’s a lot of bad news, so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Oftentimes people think that means we stay happy and optimistic all the time — or maybe even tune out the bad altogether — when the world feels like a scary place.
But that’s actually not how we approach bad news.
Rather than tuning out the bad in the world, it’s possible to pay attention to the bad news going on in the world, truly feel the heartbreak of it, and use that energy to make a difference.
Through conversations with neuropsychologists, nonprofit leaders, activists, artists, and the world’s biggest optimists, we’ve learned the art and science of actually remaining hopeful — and have broken it down here in three simple steps.
We’re here to help. Whenever there’s tragedy in the world, at Good Good Good we recommend you follow these three steps:
How to deal with constant bad news:
1. Cultivate a true sense of empathy, instead of just tuning the bad news out.
When bad things happen in the world — be it a natural disaster, mass shooting, systemic injustice, leadership failure, or other tragedy — it’s natural to want to distance yourself from the heartbreak. Emotionally. Mentally. Maybe physically. But try not to.
If you’re reading this, it’s likely you want to do your part to make the world a better place.
Mourning that a tragedy or bad news happened (and all the nuances associated with it) is a difficult, but necessary first step toward making a difference.
Allowing yourself to pay attention to the heartbreak you feel when bad news happens is a helpful indicator of what matters to you — and where you can take a next step to join in taking action.
You can’t move forward into true, authentic hope — and eventually meaningful action — without first acknowledging the authentic grief and cultivating real empathy around the situation.
2. Look for the hope and helpers within the heartbreak.
All of the good news we share at Good Good Good feels hopeful, but a little devastating at the same time (it’s why step 1 is so important).
As you read through the good news we share, you might find yourself saying “this isn’t enough” or asking “why is this even happening?”. And that’s a good thing, because most “real” good news does feel this way.
We look for and share stories of hope and helpers — people taking action and moving the needle towards good, equality, and justice.
And those types of stories are usually found in the midst of heartbreak, pain, and injustice and in the world.
And they’re usually imperfect and unfinished. The process of making the world a better place will never be completed. But we can continually move closer to our goals.
When we share stories of hope and helpers, it’s not to move on quickly past the heartbreak, but because just like the quote from Mister Rogers says, where there is bad news, “you will always find people who are helping.”
Those helpers help remind us that hope is alive, there are real people working toward real, meaningful change — and each of us can be a part of bringing even more good into the world, too.
3. Get involved and make a difference.
After we’ve allowed ourselves to feel the weight of the pain and heartbreak associated with bad news, and look for hope and helpers in the midst of it — we always have the opportunity to join in and make a difference, too.
Especially if that bad news isn’t happening to you, personally.
The privilege of experiencing tragedy through the news rather than first-hand comes with the responsibility to use that privilege for good.
We have the opportunity to join in, do our part, and be the helpers — whether in-person or by supporting those who are on the ground or directly impacted.
And here’s the thing — this doesn’t mean you need to hop on a plane and clear rubble as a first responder, or quit your job and start a nonprofit.
All you have to do is take one single action that will help.
You might make a $5 donation to a helper, organization, or mutual aid group already responding.
You may take an hour to volunteer somehow.
Or make one call to your senator.
Or maybe even share about the helpers you found (in step 2!) with your followers online — so they can feel more hopeful and find a way to get involved.
And then, if you feel compelled to do more — do more. But start small and grow from there.
Don’t know where to start? We’re always here to help.
At Good Good Good, whenever tragedy strikes, we do our best to curate resources for ways you can get involved and make a difference.
Whether it’s helping care for refugees, supporting disaster recovery efforts, protecting workers from exploitation, contacting your elected officials about important issues, making sure the media is including the impact of climate change in their reporting, advocating for gun reform — and more ways to take action.
Whether you lean on us for action steps or you just ask people affected how you can help them — getting involved and becoming a helper yourself is the final step in responding to bad news.
Of course, it’s important to mention that you should always make sure you take care of yourself.
We can’t help others if our own needs aren’t met. If you find any kind of bad news particularly challenging: Turn off the news. Put your phone and feed down. Call a friend. Text with a trained counselor at Crisis Text Line.
And then, when you’re in a good place, roll up your sleeves and help make a difference.
Putting this all together
The bad news of the world can feel heavy — especially when tragedy upon tragedy stack up in our minds.
By being intentional about following these three steps — genuinely feeling our feelings, looking for hope within the heartbreak, and finding one singular way to get involved — we allow our bodies and our brains to process what happened better.
When we take all three steps, we remind ourselves that there are always people responding to bad news with good action, affirm that we are not helpless, and that, in fact, we are the helpers.
Together, we can feel more hopeful and do more good.