Photo by Marko Milošević
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” – Helen Keller
Twelve years ago I had a breakdown. My mother died, I lost eight friends/relatives in one year, my kids were struck by lightning in a parasailing accident, and my dad was dying of bone cancer.
Shattered dreams, unmet expectations, and loss can certainly cause us to lose heart. If you’ve ever been there, if your heart has ever been shattered and your recollection of the pain is still fresh, you know what I’m talking about.
The panic, depression, and confusion I felt about the direction of my life became paralyzing, and I honestly didn’t know how I was going to move forward in the face of so much loss.
Then one day, a crystalizing moment occurred for me and I realized that suffering could do one of two things in my life: it could propel me toward hope, or lead me to despair. Thankfully, I chose the former, not because I’m some superhero, but because I didn’t want to waste the pain.
I knew that the only road to healing was to stop asking the wrong questions, face my fears, and use my strengths as a springboard to do something meaningful.
Here’s how I began to heal after being shattered:
Stop asking why
“Why” questions keep you stuck. You may never get the answers, and even if you do, they may not help. Instead of asking “why” I decided to put my energy into accepting my circumstances and processing my pain. We can’t control adversity, but we can control our response to it.
Watch what you tell yourself
Negative self-talk kept me stuck for longer than I’d like to admit. It’s subtle so you have to notice it. Learn to refute the negative internal monologues that play in your head with positive life giving counterstatements. Start believing you can!
Enlarge the pie of your life
When I was caring for my dad while he was sick my world became very narrow and isolated. To move toward healing I had to intentionally enlarge what I call “the pie of my life.” You can do the same if you’re feeling stuck. Take out a piece of paper and make a circle. Now draw slices to represent each area of your life. If there aren’t many pieces, you need to start filling them in. Get out. Get involved. Set goals and dream again. The results are powerful.
Re-invest your heart in something meaningful
John Walsh created the television show America’s Most Wanted to assist law enforcement agencies to find criminals after his son was abducted. It’s helped catch over a thousand criminals in its twenty-five years. John is a great example of someone who took a tragic loss and turned it into something redemptive. Cindy Lightner did the same thing with Mother’s of Drunk Drivers.
I used my losses as a springboard to help others by becoming a therapist and writing a book on recovering from the losses of life. If you’ve facing loss or adversity, you need time to heal, don’t minimize that. But when the time is right, ask yourself what possibilities lay ahead? How can you re-invest in life and turn something bad into something with redemptive value? Remember, the story isn’t finished yet!
Back at you: what difficult circumstances have you faced and what has helped you to heal?