When we’re not in crisis, it’s easy to talk about resilience practices and what to do when feeling stressed. It’s completely different when STRESSED. The world is experiencing varying degrees of STRESSORS: fear of suffering, fear of dying or infecting our loved ones, loss of home, finances, work, relationships and life as we have known it. It is essential that we each remind ourselves of who we are and find our inner resources to support us through this time and beyond.
Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. I’m keenly aware that for most of us our capacity expands depending upon how much practice we have had with difficulties. The reality is that some have been knocked down and had to bounce back from more hardship, loss and grief than others.
Right now I’m grateful for the capacity that I have built having been through 10 miscarriages, one near death experience, divorce, losing many loved ones and friends beginning when I was 14. I was also raised with a military father who left me at 3 years old to go to Vietnam and again when I was 12 he went to Korea for a year. I have had to master “bouncing back.”
And yet, when I speak about my decade long journey of loss, grief and physical pain, it is still a mystery in some ways as to how I survived losing 10 children through miscarriage, tubal pregnancies, one near death and divorce. I don’t actually know how I got through it really, but what I do know is what I received by it. Naming the WHAT IT WAS FOR shifts everything. From this mindset, I can stay out of the victim and continue on in the creator mode. I can focus on the THRIVAL I’ve experienced and not just the survival aspects.
I continued to grow, heal and flourish through the grief. There must have been some wisdom built into my system as well as a “knowing” that I would bounce back because I had many times before. What gifts came from these heartbreaking years? The near death experience brought me so much peace and took away any fear I had of dying. Right now that is incredibly helpful during this global pandemic.
The other reality is that each time I lost a baby and grieved, I had to check in with myself to find out how much I really wanted to be a mother. I had to do the deep personal healing work to clear away old patterns, beliefs, hidden trauma and abuse that I wasn’t aware of. I had to shift priorities and work demands to be congruent in my values and act according to my desired outcome. I am eternally grateful for the abundant gifts that I received from that horrific decade of my life. I gained clarity of who I truly am and what is most important to me. I found the deepest resources within myself which allowed me to persevere and finally fulfilled my greatest heart’s desire to become a mother. 14 years after my first loss, I gave birth to my precious son and experienced pregnancy and birth as I hoped and imagined was my path.
It seems that when you survive one loss, you gain muscle memory that you will live and find joy again, even though at the time it feels as if you can’t go on without them. When you have your heart broken, you grieve and one day you wake up and realize you didn’t break and you have healed. I had been practicing bouncing back since I was 3 years old and my Dad flew away on that plane to Vietnam. I began to build my capacity then.
Remembering this is critically important right now for all of us. We all have bounced back in life many times. There is great power in acknowledging this truth. It is also helpful to remember the times when you felt strong and resourced. This helps us activate our muscle memory of “I’m OK and will be OK no matter what happens”. Think about a time now when you felt fantastic and life was amazing. Remember it vividly. What does that feel like in your body?
Savor those feelings and fill your cup internally with your inner strength and remember who you are. This is one of many resilience practices to support you during this time.
Since my decade of tragedy and loss, I have taught resilience and incorporate resilience practices into my daily life as much as possible. I stand outside and soak in the sun rays breathing deeply and imagining peace within. I have plants on my desk, I meditate every morning before I do other things, I ride my exercise bike while I check emails, I let myself cry when I feel sad, I write out my frustrations and release anger safely. I sleep on difficult decisions. I keep pictures around that make me smile and remind me of happy days. I try to laugh and sing and dance most days.
Another capacity builder I use is Validation and Gratitude. Take time to focus on what you’re doing well and who you are. What matters to you most? Claim it and name it. Be grateful for all you have and all you are. Allow those feelings to fill you and help buoy you through the unknown waters you are navigating now.
Claim your resilience and remember all the times you’ve bounced back!
Linda Newlin, MCC is the author of several books including her latest WFH: Working From Home: A THRIVAL GUIDE for Challenging Times and Beyond.