Coming To Grips With a Life Changing Event
If you live long enough, you will undoubtedly face a life changing event. These events are not easy to plan for. And even if you know one is on the horizon, they always seem to catch you by surprise. I refer to these life changing events as sentinel events, because once they happen your life will be forever changed.
While I’ve practiced and taught strategic planning and business development in several different industries, including pharmaceutical sales and hospice/rehab/long-term care senior healthcare, I have survived several sentinel events in my own life. I generally feel as if I have come through them stronger and smarter because of my struggles. However, “no” that wasn’t a ringing endorsement of wanting to experience anymore of these type of events.
Losing your spouse, a child, your parents, or your career are all typical sentinel events that most people have to endure at some point in their lives. I once worked with a woman who had lost both her parents in a car crash as a teenager. She then went on to lose two of her three sons in the middle-eastern conflict Desert Storm in the early 90’s. I can’t even imagine how difficult and how emotionally devastating those sentinel events were for that dear lady. She had to be a strong person in order to survive and continue on.
Personal Sentinel Experiences
In my own life I have lost jobs unexpectedly. I’ve also lost both my parents after their lengthy illnesses. I had to deal with day after day during their steady decline. I had to do that alone, as neither one of my “do nothing”, worthless siblings ever lifted a finger to help or even offered to help.
In your lifetime, perhaps you have been injured in a serious car or plane crash or been the unfortunate victim of a violent crime. Whatever sentinel event has occurred in your life, there are several things you need to think about and make plans to address so you can get your life back on track. A diagnosis or a serious health concern, such as COPD, cancer, MS, et cetera are all life-changing sentinel events that people oftentimes have to confront as well. 
Are You Safe?
The first thing to take care of is your own personal safety. You aren’t much good to your kids, parent’s friends, co-workers, and/or your spouse, if you are not in a safe environment. You can’t be fighting for your life or your safety, so remove yourself from whatever disaster or sentinel event has occurred in your life, if you aren’t in a safe location. An example of this is someone who is the victim of a violent assault or domestic violence, usually a female. Get to safety first before you do anything else.
Providing For Your Basic Needs
This should be easily understood, as you will need to be able to provide for your basic needs and those of your children and family. You are going to need shelter, transportation, water, food, and a safe place to dwell. Once you have these items covered, it will be much easier for you to assess what has happened and the steps you will need to take going forward. This is not the time for Monday morning quarterbacking. What is done is done. If it was your fault or mistake that caused it, say a prayer, ask for forgiveness, and move on.
Too many people allow themselves to get all twisted up with “shoulda”, “coulda”, and “woulda”. There will be plenty of time for self-reflection down the road. Right now you need to concentrate your energy on moving forward with your life, not being paralyzed through analysis of things in the past. 
Personal SWOT Audit of Your Life
Those of you with a marketing or business background will probably recognize the marketing term of SWOT, which stands for Stengths, Weaknesses, Opportunites, and Threats. Conducting a SWOT audit, pronounced SWAT, can be a very valuable tool in assessing your circumstances and making a strategic plan of action. Strengths and weaknesses are internal to your company, your co-workers, and in this instance to yourself. Opportunities and threats are external things that affect you and represent things you need to take into account in any planning session.
Strengths are things you are good at or skills that you possess. Are you a good carpenter or electrician? Perhaps you possess good communications skills and the ability to organize people and or explain complex ideas or thoughts in a cohesive manner. Strengths can also include things that double as weaknesses, if you use them incorrectly. Loyalty is one of those items that come to mind. Generally speaking, being loyal is considered to be a strength, but it should not be given lightly.
How many times have you known someone who was steadfast in their defense of someone just to be made a fool of later on when the truth finally came out. I am not advocating not being loyal, I’m just cautioning readers to keep in mind that blind loyalty can be both a strength and a weakness. Strengths can also include supplies, firearms, food storage, and the ability to take care of your needs.
Weaknesses are things that you are not good at or skills that you do not possess. For example, I am not particularly good at plumbing or wiring, but I am a pretty fair carpenter. While I could count having carpentry skills as a strength, I would clearly call my plumbing and wiring skills to be weaknesses that I will have to barter out or pay for if my strategic plan calls for rebuilding anything. Other traits that are weaknesses are being impulsive, reticent, or unable to make a decision. Knowing your own limitations are paramount to making a cohesive strategic plan. If your life-changing sentinel event was a house fire or home invasion/robbery, losing your firearms and ammunition supplies would be a huge weakness.
Opportunities are things you can maximize on to improve your situation. For example, you lost all your ammunition in the fire, but one of your elderly neighbors has a reloading set up. Your opportunity would be to offer to barter your services of labor to your neighbor, i.e. mowing the lawn, raking leaves et cetera in exchange for the neighbor allowing you to reload some ammunition for your family’s defense. It is sometimes easy to confuse strengths and opportunities. Just always keep in mind that strengths are internal things, and opportunities are external things that you can pursue, acquire, or influence.
Threats are also external and must be accounted for in your strategic planning. In the above scenario of losing your supplies and house to a fire, one of your big threats will be looters sneaking around trying to help themselves to what is left of your life. Other threats on a larger scale might also come into play at some point. If you live next to a chemical plant that has a shaky safety record or is in the ring of fire earthquake belt, you can rest assured this should be considered a threat. I live in a prison town, so there is always the potential for an escaped convict or two, or God-forbid the world as we know it ceases to exist, as the disaster plan of the state prison system is to just let all these scumbags go free.
Marshalling Your Resources
Finding assistance is easier than you might think. Places like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, YMCA, and FEMA are all places you can go. Friends and family can also be of assistance. Just be prepared to have your feelings hurt. In times of trouble, it can be rare for friends and or relatives to come to your aid when there is nothing in it for them.
I judge only my past experiences here, as there are lots of genuinely good people out there. Hopefully, you know some of them. I would also look to apply for any programs from food assistance, rent assistance, Habitat for Humanity, or Goodwill. Goodwill can be a tricky place to find help, as it depends on the location. Some Goodwill locations will give you the shirt off their back, and others will take the shirt of your back and still stick their hands out for more.
Get Your Mind Right
Now that you have survived your sentinel event, made sure everyone was safe, conducted a SWOT audit of your current circumstances, and found and applied for assistance, it is time to get your mind right. Life is about 10% what has happened to you and about 90% how you deal with it. I have always tried to live my life by this premise, and I believe it to be great advice. The real take home point for me is this: Whatever happened is over, and you have survived. Yes, you took some hard knocks and your life is forever changed. Don’t waste your time beating yourself up about what you could have done. The past can never be changed, but your future can be greatly improved by focusing your energy on improving your circumstances. Learn from your mistakes, and apply that knowledge looking forward, not back.
To Stay or Go
Should you stay or should you go largely depends on what type of support systems you have and what type of sentinel event you are dealing with. If you have more support back home than where you are currently at, making the move back to friends and family can make a lot of sense. I would advise SurvivalBlog readers to follow your own SWOT audit, as it will help you stay focused on your strategic plan.
Making good choices for a better tomorrow will allow you to rebuild your life. If you have some type of chemical dependency, drugs or alcohol, you don’t need them, and they cost a lot of money. They also cloud your judgment and make you lose focus on more important things. If your sentinel event was getting arrested for committing criminal offenses because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, make sure you stay away from that crowd of losers that you have been associating with. 
Changes in your life are always going to occur, and sometimes they will be life altering sentinel events. Most of the time you won’t be able to prepare for them. Even if you are lucky enough to know it’s coming, you can pretty much assume it will still catch you by surprise. Your best course of action is to ride out the initial storm making sure everyone is safe and that you can provide for your needs. Once you have done that, you can make yourself a strategic plan after conducting your own personal SWOT audit on your current circumstances. Having a plan, modifying it when necessary, and then sticking to it will help you get your life back on track.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been another entry for Round 72 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest . The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator  from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses , excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper . These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees  in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product  from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator  provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4  Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses .
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of  Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
- A large handmade clothes drying rack , a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners , donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections , a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances ,
- Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a $125 Montie gear Gift certificate.,
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord  (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value), and
Round 72 ends on September 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail  us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.