Shining Through Adversity
There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity. ~Washington Irving
Over my life span I have faced numerous challenges. I have never really thought about what I did to carry on when the storms of my life raged, but I have endured.
Then just over a year ago in a very short span I faced my biggest storm that would leave me so broken open and shattered that I never thought I would be whole again. In a three month period I lost a very important relationship, my financial standing, and then the anchor who was holding it all together for me- my mom.
My mom’s death was sudden and tragic and losing her left me completely raw and fractured. When my mom died everything in my life came to an abrupt halt. Losing her was the most intense soul wrenching pain I had ever felt. Every breathe felt like an effort. During the first few weeks the pain was so great I thought I would die from it. Then for months I alternated between waves of extreme pain and complete numbness. It would only be months later when I would come to realize that the multiple losses I had experienced were actually gifts. But at the time I didn’t see that. I just wanted the pain to stop.
Everyone will eventually find their way through the adversity they face. Here is how I managed to survive my storms.
Honour Your Feelings and Let the Tears Flow
I used to try to will myself happy. Every time I experienced a sad feeling I would just replace it with a happy thought. I’ll admit it was messed up thinking, but I thought this would get me through the rough spots in life. However, when my mom died the “thinking happy thoughts routine” no longer worked. I finally had to admit that the tough times were truly tough and this became my first step in moving forward. At the same time I gave myself permission to feel all the emotions and to cry. And I cried a lot.
To heal you need to give yourself permission to fully feel all the emotions that surface. Sadness, anger, fear, hurt, all need to be given space or they will reside in your body and create dis-ease. Don’t squash your feelings and don’t judge them as they come up. Honouring your emotions by feeling them and releasing them. This will help you move to calmer shores.
Faith is Everything
During this time of grief I discovered a deep faith within me that I had never known existed. This faith is what got me out of bed on the mornings when I didn’t want to get up, and there were many. Believing in something bigger than myself, that the universe had a bigger plan for all this pain and heartache, believing that I could survive and everything would be okay, is what also allowed me to not only move forward but also go deep inside myself and begin to heal.
When you are in the eye of the storm it isn’t always clear why life is unfolding as it is. But having faith that you are exactly where you are suppose to be can help you find some calm in the chaos.
Let Others Help
Talking about your problems with friends, family or a health care professional is a good way to bounce back when adversity hits. This was the hardest thing for me to do as I felt very alone in my sorrow and it is not in my nature to ask for help. Talking with others helped me gain perspective and find solutions and my time with loved ones always energized me.
Healing wasn’t a conscious effort at first. All I knew was that there was no where to go but inward. As I began to make a conscious effort to do the inner work, people began to appear who guided me through the process of healing my heart and my spirit. It was small steps to heal and to reconnect to my true self.
Take Care of Yourself
Often when a crisis hits we stop taking care of ourselves. Just getting through each day can be difficult enough. I know for me decisions were impossible to make. Initially I stopped eating, showering, exercising, and doing anything that resembled self care. Then the day came when my daughter asked me if I could shower and change my clothes before I picked her from school. That was a sign it was time to start taking care of myself again.
To keep yourself both psychically and mentally in good shape to endure the difficult times you need to take the time each day to take care of you. Here are a few things that helped me that you may want to try.
- A daily meditation practise helped reduce my stress, improved my clarity of the situation, and provided me with insights and solutions to moving forward. Even when I didn’t want to do it, I meditated anyway.
- I learned how to breathe. This probably sounds funny but through meditation I found that breathing in slow and deep whenever I was anxious or sad, would relax me and shift my mood.
- I resumed my running routine and took up a new sport, paddle boarding. Energy releases endorphins which make you feel better when you’re sad or in a foul mood.
- I read stories others who had survived hard times and learned from some of the masters in transformation- Wayne Dyer, Pema Chödrön, Thich Nhat Hanh, Robin Sharma, Byron Katie, and many others.
- I reconnected with nature. Getting on my paddle board in the ocean gave me a break from the mental chaos in my head and restored peace to my spirit.
- I started to journal. I had never been a writer but I started journaling after my mom died. My mom and I used to talk on the phone every day and writing gave me an outlet to share all that was happening in my life with her.
- An attitude of gratitude. I learned to be thankful. When you are overcome with sadness or anger, it can be hard to see the good things in your life. Writing down just three things you are grateful for every evening can shift your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is present. Giving thanks also makes you feel happier.
Service to Others
When you step outside of your problems and help others you not only gain perceptive but you also learn that everyone’s life is not perfect. A year after my storm hit I became active in the community as a volunteer mentor to young moms. It is an activity I continue to enjoy today.
Learn from the Experience
I truly believe these events didn’t happen to me they happened for me. They forced me to dig deep into all the parts of my life to explore what was working and wasn’t. Self inquiry and reflection helped me to understand what my role was in the loss of my relationships and my finances. It wasn’t always easy to do. I could have taken an alternate path of just keeping my head down, hoping the storm would pass, but that would have been too simple. I wanted to ensure that I learned from these events, in part to make sure that they didn’t happen again, or if they did, I wouldn’t be completely broken open again.
I now know why I had to endure so many challenges. The losses before my mom’s death began to strip away the illusions of the life I had been living. My mom’s death was the catapult which started me on my journey of inner exploration. I turned off the auto pilot I had been living on and stepped into my fear to take control of my spiritual, emotional and mental health and start living my dreams.
When we are in the eye of a storm it’s hard to embrace and be thankful for the challenges that come into our life. But it is only when we are faced with adversity that we grow, transform and truly become courageous.
With love and light,