How do you overcome devastating events, and other personal and professional challenges? How do you survive life’s most tragic situations to emerge stronger, healthier and perhaps even happier in the wake of catastrophic circumstances? When do the persistent internal inquisitions, “Why now? Why me?” finally quiet?
These are the questions I’ve asked myself as I’ve gone through my own struggles with extreme adversity. The good news is, it’s very possible to come out on the other side with a healthy mindset, a fresh perspective, and an inner well of strength, resolve and tenacity needed to not just survive, but thrive.
The following are a few practical, top-line insights I’ve come to the hard way – through personal experience. These keys will help you better deal with unexpected adversity and even tragedy, and find the strength you need to overcome:
- Practice the 3 C’s: Compassion, Commitment and Courage. Compassion: In an effort to heal, it can be tempting to close yourself off from others. Don’t. Instead, shift your mindset by reaching out and helping someone else in need. For instance, showing compassion toward a colleague will help bring you out of your own sorrow and pull your focus outward. Commitment: Grief can last months, years, even decades – if you let it. The variable in how long your grief might last is closely linked with how committed you are to your own recovery. It’s not easy. And be prepared for it to well up again and again, but stay the course and know you can make it through to the other side. Courage: Whatever your courage looks like, climbing mountains or simply showing up to work in the morning, embrace it and build upon it until you can look your grief in the eye and shout it down. The 3 C’s ensure that you have the tools you need to overcome your grief on your own personal timeline, and according to your own unique personality. There is no one size fits all. Do it on your own terms, but just do it. Do something that fulfills at least one of the three C’s every day.
- Be your own toughest competitor. Those who are there for you at the beginning–family, friends, colleagues, counselors, pastors, preachers, priests–can often fall away as the journey progresses and other needs arise. But there you are, suffering every day just the same–with or without them. Overcoming grief is a marathon, not a sprint. You must challenge yourself to persevere even when the dust settles, when the support wanes and you are there, alone, still struggling. The only person you need to compete with right now is yourself. Challenge yourself to take a step forward every day, whether that’s taking on a new project, taking a class or hitting the gym regularly.
- Realize perseverance is a gift. Perseverance is the greatest gift in your arsenal of survival skills. Perseverance allows you to stay the course through difficult times and dig deep. You have the tenacity, the perseverance, to push through the adversity, to break through the pain, to survive, and maybe even to thrive. Just one day, when you’re aching and not wanting to get up and out of bed that morning, get up. Set a goal of accomplishing one small, tiny thing. Then do it. You’ve just given yourself the gift of perseverance and the permission to grieve on your own terms.
- Embrace fear. Feeling fear means you’re alive. To deny it is to deny the very reality of life, and the prize of overcoming fear is to live again. What are you afraid of? Tackling a new project, taking on a new client, putting in for that promotion? Face your fear. Look it in the eye and just do it. What do you have to lose? You’ve already lost something so near and dear to your heart that has sent you into this despair. Take the reins and plunge into it. Then feel it. Feel that you’re alive. It may suck, but at least you’ll feel.
- Believe in yourself. Belief is inextricably linked to hope; you must believe that there is a future beyond the pain you feel at the moment. There are a series of causes and effects when you choose hope over despair, and belief over doubt. Did you get up out of bed, if only to get dressed? Those steps, no matter how small or simple they may seem, help to give you the building blocks to begin the walk out of the darkness. Walk every day, even if it’s just to the bathroom. Soon you’ll find yourself moving beyond the boundaries of known comfort and to life beyond.
- Trust the different stages of grief. It’s unwise – even unrealistic – to assume that once on the road to recovery, grief will never rear its ugly head again. The surest way to overcome grief is to push through it, every painstaking step of it, and you can only do that by trusting it as real, powerful and present – then allowing yourself to move on from it. Give yourself permission to laugh, as hard as that may be, as you’ll have plenty of time and opportunity to shed tears. And, let go of the guilt the first time you have a belly laugh. Understand it lets the blood flow to heal your aching spirit.
- Regain your passion. Decide to do something, anything, every single day. Those little somethings add up, one by one, helping you to build your will and find the passion to live again. How do you express yourself? Pick up a pen, a paintbrush, a cookbook, a guitar, whatever it is that has always helped you to express what wells up inside. Don’t feel like it? Then just write your name and the date on a sheet of paper, and put it away. But do it every day. Or paint a patch of red today and wash out the paintbrush. Do the same the next day and the next. Pick up your guitar and pack it away. And do it again and again. Each day you’ll take a step further until you’re moved to express the wealth of pain desperate to seep out.
- Discover hope. To quote Helen Keller, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.” There is one certain truth: you cannot realize happiness if you are hopeless. Search for a ray of hope, any sliver, and grip it fiercely. For me, that ray of hope came when my husband and I decided to start a business and open an artisanal distillery. I was able to pour my passion into the endeavor, and somehow hope became happiness.
I used to think that life was getting past the obstacle, just beyond the obstacle, to get to the other side. I just needed to get there in order to live again. But you know what? Life is not on the other side of the challenge. Life is the challenge. The challenge is the journey. Getting to the other side is just the pit stop, where you can re-energize before the next hurdle is in front of you. With each and every loss, every challenge, every obstacle, it empowers me to know that I’m gaining the courage and the wisdom to live life beyond what it was and used to be. Triumphing over grief, challenge and adversity is never easy, but it is surprisingly simple. All you have to do is have faith, faith in yourself and beyond, and the courage to take the next step.
Author: Linda Losey.
Linda Losey has overcome devastating life events, including the death of her two young sons, and despite it all has achieved both professional and personal life goals with courage, confidence and chutzpah. She’s now the founder of Bloomery Plantation Distillery, which is pioneering an array of craft cocktail trends. With a sweet spin on moonshine, the company makes this traditional homespun spirit drinkable through its award-winning, 100% natural premium artisan liqueurs that are hand-crafted from farm-fresh fruits, roots and nuts. Learn more online at BloomerySweetshine.com.