How to Find Laughter in the Midst of Tragedy

A guest post by Heidi Dennis


It was like any other day.  I had driven this road hundreds of times, only this time was different.  It was night and I had been out of town for a week.  I wasn’t anticipating the construction work that had been done.  I wasn’t anticipating the missing road lines that hadn’t been painted back on yet.  I certainly wasn’t anticipating the uninstalled stop sign lying in the ditch next to the intersection.  And I wasn’t anticipating the car that would smash into me, t-boning my driver’s side door.  In an instant, everything that I knew was about to change…

I woke up to see a spider-web of glass and flashing lights.  You guys, my first thought was literally “I don’t like this dream.  I’m going back to sleep.”  But sleep wouldn’t come for quite a while.  The sound of bending metal jolted me back as they were using the “jaws of life” to cut open my door.  I remember saying to the EMT, “I think I broke something”.  He laughed and said, “Sweetheart, I think you broke a few things”.  

Life, needless to say, was different for me after that.  I had multiple broken bones, including my humorous bone (which as far as I can tell tried to break up with me due to the fact that it snapped in two and tried to leave my body.  Thanks humorous bone…you’re not that funny).  Because I had broken bones on both sides, I couldn’t use crutches and was confined to a ‘right-wheel drive’ wheel chair while I healed (which is a wheelchair that you drive with one hand, resulting in my spending the next few months looking like Austin Powers while I maneuvered around- ‘forward a little, backwards a little, *bump*, forward again, *bump*, Gah!  I’ll just stay here, thanks!’).  I had to learn how to walk again in a swimming pool.  I wasn’t married at the time and in my early 20’s.  All of a sudden, my freedom disappeared. I couldn’t drive and couldn’t go to work. My parents thankfully are school teachers and had the summer off so they moved in with me.  I had to rely on others for everything (when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING.  I couldn’t change my own clothes, I couldn’t walk, I needed help bathing…ev…er…y…thing.  Can you say AWKWARD?  I bet my mom never thought she would be tending to me this way since I was a baby).  

Can you imagine going from freedom in your 20’s to this level of dependence?  Neither could I.  And so, I tried to do everything by myself (remember, I was incapable of dressing myself, opening doors, and driving in a straight line in my wheelchair, but no biggie!).  I was like a toddler in full-on tantrum mode “I DO IT MYSELF!”  The poor sweet people surrounding me and trying to help just had to stare awkwardly while I rejected their offers and struggled through on my own.  But then one day, everything changed.  I saw the pain and the discomfort in the faces around me as they watched me struggle.  I saw their hands reaching out to help me and then jerk back when I waved them away.  Instead of seeing my own pain, I started to wonder how they might be feeling when they wanted to help and I blocked every attempt.  I had the epiphany that if I rejected their attempts to help me, I was causing them to feel helpless instead of allowing them to experience the joy that comes from helping others.  

You see, up until that point, I assumed that I was a burden (have you ever felt this way?).  My parents had to uproot their lives, friends had to drive to pick me up if we were doing anything, others gave of their own finances.  Surely I was a burden.  I thought, “I will make it easy on all of them by doing as much by myself as I can”.  I was wrong.  When I rejected someone’s offer to help, THAT is the moment that I became a burden- not before.  It is a difficult thing to accept help, a humble thing.  But think about how you feel when you are able to help someone else- it is so rewarding.  It takes you from feeling helpless and hopeless to feeling like you have something to offer.  You don’t see the other person as a burden when you are freely offering your help.  From that point on, I let others help me.  And I accepted that help graciously.  I was no longer going to see myself as a burden.  I was no longer going to block them from a blessing.  THAT is what stuck with me the most- not the trauma, not the life changes- but remembering that the best gift that you can offer someone else is being willing to accept their help.

It doesn’t matter what you are going through- physical ailments, depression, anxiety, loneliness…don’t be afraid to reach out for help (they don’t know you have a need unless you tell them).  YOU, dear friend, are not a burden.  And helping you is not a burden.  Don’t block others from that gift. 

***What about you?  Have you ever felt like a burden and it kept you from reaching out for help?  Has it kept you from accepting someone else’s help when they offer?  I would like to challenge you today- the next time you are in need, don’t be afraid to reach out and accept the help from those around you.  You are more loved than you know.   I would love to hear your thoughts below or join the conversation at

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