Today’s guest contributor is my friend, Jennifer Boykin, an amazing writer, mentor and creator of the soulful, sassy and simply divine LifeAfterTampons.com.
Last March, my daughter Grace should have been twenty. She should be a sophomore in college. She should have come home for the weekend. There should have been a party and mani-pedis and some lame-ass boy or two hanging around waiting around for us to get home so he could drool all over her.
But there wasn’t. Because Grace died shortly after her premature birth. And instead of a lifetime of little girl memories, I had 32 minutes to be her mother.
People say they can’t imagine what it’s like to be the mother of a dead child, but I think they can. They can picture the whole thing. They just don’t want to.
But here’s the thing, Sweet Cheeks – sorrow, loss, illness, betrayal, economic hardship, divorce, loss of faith – these circumstances are just part of EVERYONE’S human condition. If you live long enough, you WILL have to face these and other losses.
When you do, here’s the first challenge you are likely to meet – lack of training. In our culture, we don’t teach people how to work through loss and suffering. We acquire things, achieve things, make things happen.
It’s a woefully poor strategy for living. When we come face to face with the shadow side of ALL GAIN – which is LOSS – we are tragically unprepared.
But there ARE actionable steps you can take to find your way through. And more than that – I can GUARANTEE you that, if you work for it, you will also find a way to make use of your suffering in the best possible way — to TRANSFORM the lives of others.
Here are eight basic steps to overcome hardship and transform TRAGEDY into TRIUMPH:
- Decide. When tragedy strikes, ultimately, you have just one decision to make that will determine the whole of your remaining life – Will you get bitter? Or better? Your future happiness depends on the choice you make. Ironically, the choice to heal is not as simple as it may sound. It means letting go of the immediate reward of the attention your suffering brings for the “mayhaps” promise of future insight. It is a risk that all who heal take and is not easy while you are in the hell of acute loss. I urge you to make it nonetheless.
- Heal. Reach out to any resource you need to get better. Be extraordinarily loving to yourself while you are “in process.” Grief has an energy of its own. It will have its way with you, until it doesn’t. But you can help yourself through (If you’re interested, I have a written a mini-tool kit for healing. Details are at the end of this piece). Set boundaries around your suffering. Make appointments with it, in fact. Carve out moments where you focus on reclaiming your joy and your light.
- Let Go of Your “Story.” If you want to transform your life, you must let go of “your story” of loss. You have to be willing to let go of all attention you get for your suffering. In fact, you will have to let go of your story again and again and again throughout all of your life. There’s just no way around it. The price of martyrdom is joy.
- Understand What Loss Is, and Is NOT. Loss is the shadow of joy. It intrinsic in ALL happiness. Endings and beginnings are simply the yin and yang of change. One can NEVER be present without the other. If you choose to spend your life with someone else, you also “lose” forever the freedoms of your single days. Loss is the bill that comes due for the price of loving. Accept that and you are free.
- Connect with Others Through Your Loss. Pain connects you to others in a way that joy never could. Here’s why — while you may feel happy for another person, you can’t really feel their joy as your own. Sorrow, on the other hand, creates deeply shared feelings of empathy, compassion, and connection. Lean into the sharp edges of your suffering. Allow it to whittle away what you don’t need. Most of all — don’t suffer alone. Others are waiting for you and NEED to be part of your story of healing.
- Appreciate Everything. Train yourself to appreciate everything – even the hard things. ESPECIALLY the hard things. When you keep your heart open in this way, you will see the beauty in everything around you. You won’t BELIEVE THE EXQUISITE beauty of life once you have learned to harness the transformational power of loss and suffering!
- Claim Freedom from Fear. Once the “worst thing” that can ever happen actually happens, you get to live your life FEARLESSLY! After all what else could possible befall you? But what if the worst thing hasn’t happened to you personally? Can you still live free from fear? Absolutely! Here’s how: Determine that, if your “worst thing” ever happened, you would make a study of how others have triumphed over that thing. Once you make that decision, you have a “worst case scenario” action plan in place. You are now free to live fearlessly!
- Share Your Wisdom. Your losses will make new discoveries, new soul-places, new visions available to you that WERE NOT POSSIBLE before. In fact, your losses make you UNIQUELY QUALIFIED to be a source of healing, hope, and joy. Other people need to know about your story of triumph. Because, soon enough, it will be there turn. Let the grace and light of your newly healed heart be a beacon of hope for everyone you meet.
After pain there is Grace — if you work for it.
Decide to get better. Choose to heal. Look for ways to share your newfound wisdom with others. And, if I can help, please let me know.
Dive into more of Jennifer’s works at LifeAfterTampons.com. She’s also written a five-part series called Get Bitter or Get Better. If you’d like her to send you a copy, register here (It’s free. Because you’re priceless.)
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