BUILDING STRENGTH AND RESILIENCE IN GRIEF
Resilience is not a protective shield that we put up to prevent us from pain. Resilience allows us to feel the pain, the anger, and the angst, and move through these emotions to get to the other side of grief. Resilience is about marshaling all our resources to find the energy and stamina to make it through the journey of grief. Resilience teaches us to prevent the what-ifs from creeping into our attitude. Resilience is the choice we make to put our efforts into working through grief. Resilience is our ability to bounce forward when the s*%t hits the fan.
Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant describe resilience best in their book Option B. “Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity—and we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone.”
In order to develop the resiliency to work through your journey of grief, you need to reorder your brain for a more positive approach. This is no easy task when the world as you know it has collapsed around you. When you are resilient, you can view grief as a challenge, not a paralyzing event. Resilient people are committed folks with goals and energy to focus on the situation and move through it. Resilient people are optimistic and view bad events as a temporary setback rather than a permanent situation.
Resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. Most people display resilience in the face of adversity. Resilience is not an innate trait but is more of a learned response to a situation. Resilience is a choice you must make. Making the choice to be resilient can restore a sense of control and thus make you feel stronger. To develop resilience in grief, you have to make a conscious effort to find the energy to forge ahead with the use of a few tools:
- Maintaining a positive outlook of yourself. Self-compassion and the ability to forgive yourself are integral parts of resilience. Do not tackle this in the middle of the night! Best to wait until after breakfast when things look a bit more hopeful.
- Taking good care of yourself, physically and emotionally. You need to have enough sleep, food, and exercise to find the strength to work through grief. Try to avoid the ice cream and cookie binges in the middle of the night, although an occasional sweet splurge is sometimes a necessity. Has anyone tried Bart & Judy’s chocolate chip cookies?
- Fostering good relationships with family and friends. If you are willing to ask for help or even just accept help, you are well on your way to resiliency. Your friends and family are your safety net. Dump toxic friends which will do wonders for your psyche.
- Altering your view of hardship as surmountable, rather than overwhelming, will help to build resiliency. Think of “The Little Engine That Could,” and allow “I think I can” to be your new mantra.
- Clocking your growth. Be willing to look back at your progress and applaud your victories, even if they are tiny. You are stronger than you think.
- Keeping things in perspective. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl put his experience in a concentration camp into perspective so he could survive the horrors of war.
- Allowing yourself the space to experience emotions. But if they are too painful, allow yourself the comfort of rest until you are ready. Cry in the shower or in the car. You can actually feel better although it does wreak havoc on your eyes!
- Pacing yourself. This is a slow and steady race, and you need to build up your strength gradually. Don’t think you have to recover overnight. Grief takes time and work and yes, resilience!
- Being helpful to others. This will reset your moral compass and make you feel better about yourself. Volunteer big time!
- Using humor and laughter as breaks to build resilience. “It could work” from Young Frankenstein is my motto.
- Developing the ability to feel gratitude again despite the loss of our love. This is a hard one. Find enjoyment in a bag of popcorn, a good movie, or a good movie with a bag of popcorn!
- Asking ourselves if negative thoughts and actions help or hinder our journey through grief. If we try to move negative thoughts to the back of our minds, it can help us to gain a positive attitude. This is not an easy task but when you take the time to look at where your head is, this in itself is a positive step.
- Developing private rituals for mourning. Play a song, watch a movie, look through photo albums, or light a candle in your loved one’s honor. Rituals help you find the control to move forward. Walking is a way I can get closer to Peter and almost hear his voice advising me to be resilient!
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