Setbacks, tragedies, crisis, challenges, battles, storms of life…whatever you prefer to call them, are unfortunately, a part of this life.
While I certainly wish you joy, peace, happiness and above all, the heart to dance through life; I cannot promise that there won’t be days when it will rain.
What I hope to offer though, by sharing the keys that got me through my personal hurricane is the truth that you can make it through anything; so that after it passes (and it will), you’d be stronger.
Three months before my second wedding anniversary, when my daughter was barely ten weeks old, I faced the most painful and most difficult crisis of my life. As a physician, I had learnt to handle breaking bad news to others and comforting friends and families who had lost loved ones almost on a daily basis. I had even survived the personal loss of my father a few years before, but nothing prepared me for this.
As I look back on that time of my life and ask myself how I made it through; of the long list of things I could write or say, these eight points below for me are the most important.
- Anchor deep
I read a book once that engraved this truth on my heart. We all need an anchor. Roots that go deep, that keep you grounded. The author described asking sailors the secret of making it through a storm. Their response had been – “Anchor deep.”
I don’t know what your anchor is, but I know mine and when my storm came, it held.
You need a timeless truth that when all fails will remind you, when you are alone, will remind you, when facing another sunrise seems impossible, will remind you; that you are not alone and you are strong enough to make it through. So find your anchor, but remember; it must be rock solid, true and timeless, strong enough to hold. I found mine.
- Allow yourself to grieve
Everybody loves a comeback! Everyone loves a success story. I do and I’m sure you do too.
In the midst of our struggles, we may feel pressured to ‘get it together,’ act like nothing happened, and keep moving. We may feel forced to deny our pain and agony and just –“Get back in the game.”
Remember, healing is a process and any surgeon will tell you every scar heals differently, over a different period of time.
People may down play your pain by telling you how the same thing happened to someone else and how they ‘bounced back’ after a day or two and leave you feeling guilty that you just can’t ‘bounce back’. Note that no two strikingly similar situations are ever truly the same, and that person it happened to, was not you. It helps to know that someone else survived and that you will; but you must also allow yourself to grieve and heal.
Cry if you have to; take time off work, school or whatever intense responsibilities you have if you need to. (Some personalities do better by keeping busy, some need a break. Bottom-line – Know thyself. Don’t try to be someone else. You’ll heal faster that way.) Find a healthy outlet for your pain – listening to music, watching a comedy, taking a walk in the park, write in a journal. Try not to do anything wild and daring because you are vulnerable and can end up complicating the situation by doing something you’d regret later.
The Kübler-Ross model describes five stages of grief. These stages are not necessarily chronological and not every grieving person passes through all stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. You can look this up but I want you to know that if you identify yourself in any of these stages, do not feel guilty. What I want you to do though, is be determined to move beyond self-pity into the place of acceptance, where you understand what you can fix about the situation (and fix it)and what you can’t; and find that peace, that that’s ok.
3. Forgive yourself, forgive others
Oh, the anger and rage that can come from painful situations! While I hate clichés, I must agree with the one that states that the person you truly free when you forgive is yourself. It heals. There is a ‘lightness’ in knowing that you are not perfect and a wisdom in accepting the imperfections of others. You must find the strength to admit your role in the situation including your mistakes and understand that no failure, weakness or ‘foolishness’ can define you if you choose to learn and grow. Try not to make excuses for yourself or avoid facing the truth. If you blew it, its fine this time, and the next; unless you don’t care enough to evaluate the situation so it’s not happening again and again.
After you have forgiven yourself and positioned yourself to avoid the same mistake, forgive others. And keep forgiving. When you are hurting, more wounds can come from well-meaning friends who try to wish you well but end up saying or doing insensitive things, and some people actually set out to hurt you more. Whatever the offence, forgiveness transcends it. And proves you are stronger. So please, forgive.
- Find the strength to accept and move beyond
I hope you accept the things you cannot change but more than that, I hope you can find the strength to move beyond acceptance. After you’re done crying and replaying the events and struggling with how you could have avoided or fixed the situation, paint a picture. Yeah, paint a picture. In your mind. Paint a picture of you being well, alright, fine and thriving; in spite of your loss. Paint a picture of your future. Do not stumble forward. Your setback has caused a change in direction and if it came unexpectedly, even more so. You need to pick up your brush and retouch your portrait. Moving beyond may mean a new career, learning something new for instance, an amputee has to learn to reuse her limbs, redirecting your talents and gifts – for instance if you lost a child, you may find moving beyond to mean being an advocate for child safety. Whatever you do, don’t be pressured. Let it come naturally; let it be what you want to do. But do it. Move beyond.