A powerful tornado hit Nashville and several nearby areas just after midnight. Tragically, at least twenty-five people were killed and dozens more were injured. There was devastation of property as well. Buildings ruined, power lines down. Debris everywhere.

Obviously, the tornado that struck Nashville was terrifyingly real, and the repercussions nothing less than staggering.

Hopefully it’s not too soon for me to be saying this, given the untold suffering people are going through right now, but on an abstract level it’s certainly possible to see a tornado such as the one that touched down in Nashville as a metaphor for catastrophic loss, including, and perhaps especially, suicide loss.

A tornado wreaks havoc, leaving in its wake a wide swath of damage. The same may be said for the metaphorical tornado of suicide.

Sometimes, as is the case with a “real” tornado, people fail to survive the storm. Oftentimes, they’re simply unable to find emotional shelter. Or they’re struck down by flying psychological debris.

Suicide is like a physical tornado in that it rips apart the metaphorical “structures” that make up your world—your family structure, your social structure. It rips apart order, as well as routine. Rather like a survivor of an actual tornado, you’re left wondering whether it’s even worth trying to rebuild or whether you should attempt to start afresh somewhere else.

The metaphor holds as we see the devastation on the news. We see the power of the storm in the flattened buildings, the cars lying crumpled on the ground like broken toys. We imagine family members grieving and survivors lying injured in the hospital. We acknowledge the storm’s power in the same way many of us are forced to acknowledge the terrible power of suicide if—or when—it sweeps through our lives.

In my soon-to-be published memoir, The World Looks Different Now, I write about attending a grief group session during which a tornado warning siren begins going off. We, the participants, take shelter like we’re asked to do, even though most of us appear indifferent to the possibility of a tornado touching down. Were we being fatalistic? I’m not sure, but having each of us recently come through our own emotional tornado we were—perhaps foolishly—less concerned than we might otherwise have been about the physical kind.

So how do you weather the storm of a loved one’s suicide?

There are no easy answers or paths. Perhaps by holding onto your faith as if lashed to a mast.

Other, lesser tools, can help as well, such as therapy, exercise, reading—and, if you’re so inclined—writing, even if it’s only just scribbling in a journal.

After having been tossed by the storm, we do these things in an effort to heal.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the Nashville tornado. Their road to healing will undoubtedly be long and hard. We need to do everything we can to help.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has created a donation site to support the affected communities. 

To donate, visit cfmt.org/story/middle-tennessee-emergency-response-fund