Can You Re-Frame Your Life After Tragedy or Loss?
When life hands you lemons, how do you handle it? Do you re-frame it the best way you can to be a better person and keep moving forward?
Or do you find the closest dark closet, bring every piece of chocolate you have in the house with you and close the door on the world?
Honestly, I’ve done my share of both depending on the level of pain I was experiencing at the time.
But, over time, I learned two things.
First, we humans have an incredible ability to re-bound from just about anything if we allow ourselves to try.
Second, staying in Victim Mode never served me or anyone else I know who has experienced loss. It might feel safer initially, but it’s not a good long-term plan.
Good Can Come From Bad
But, you don’t have to look far these days to see the powerful good that can come from painful experiences and loss.
For example, I’m sure you’ve heard of many parents who have lost a child through gun violence or killed by a drunk driver. But, instead of going into "Victim Mode" they rise beyond their pain and act with courage by using their voice for change.
So much positive change and healing has been created out of the most horrendous of acts. Somehow it brings people together to act in a common cause.
If that much good can be created from extreme pain and loss, why can’t we use that same power within us to affect change in our everyday lives? Nothing says positive change has to come from extreme tragedy!
Does Positive Change Only Come From Pain?
There are plenty of painful experiences that each of us can think of that have left their mark in our minds, hearts and souls.
The question is: Are we doing our best to heal from our past and make the experience count for our greater good or are we just holding onto them?
Left untended, these painful life experiences often fester and grow worse over time, making them even bigger and more destructive than they were when we first experienced them.
Re-Framing Your Pain
So, how can you pull them out of those dark recesses and re-frame them into something that you can learn and move on from?
I believe that every life experience, from serious illness to the loss of a love one, can create an invaluable opportunity for us to grow, teach and/or heal.
If you’ve experienced a recent setback, experienced tragedy or an epic failure, there is a seed inside of you that’s waiting to be nurtured and given grace.
If this event is fresh, you may be resistant to what I’m saying, even angry that I would suggest that any good can come out of that level of pain.
The Answer is Closer Than You Think
I understand. But, I’m here to tell you that with time and effort it can, but only if you allow it to.
Unfortunately, there’s no manual that gives you a play-by-play guide to overcoming the pain, loneliness, anger, self-judgement or any other negative emotion you might be experiencing right now because of what you’ve been through.
But, the primary key to not only surviving, but thriving, after tragedy or loss comes from within.
It’s not handed to us from family, friends, co-workers or significant others. There’s no magic pill. We’ve got to do the work all by ourselves.
Worse, it often requires leaning into or facing the pain head on, instead of what we usually do, which is try to avoid it at all costs.
And by leaning into it, I mean to allow.
Permission to Live
Allowing is the form of acceptance where we acknowledge to ourselves that there are many things that are out of our control. Acceptance invites release.
This can be tough to grasp when you are in the thick of grief.
The future feels shut off, impenetrable, and despite your best efforts, you can’t seem to get to a high enough place to see if there’s something positive waiting for you on the other side.
Some may also grapple with survivor’s guilt or feel guilty if they unexpectedly smile or experience a moment of happiness.
How can they feel any happiness again when they’ve lost the love of their life or other tragedy? How does a person trust, or be open to others, after they’ve been physically or emotionally attacked?
There's a Better Future Ahead
But, there is a better future ahead. It’s always waiting for you to join it when you are ready to move toward it.
We aren’t meant to stay stagnant. We’re meant to grow, even if it’s from significant loss or pain.
We need to make a choice. We have to act, even if it’s in the smallest way and we seriously doubt it will make any difference.
It just takes baby steps and giving ourselves grace in the process as we shift our view from the rearview mirror to the road ahead of us.
Are You Driving Toward Your Future Using Your Rear View Mirror?
Sometimes, when I’m struggling with a painful memory from my own past and struggling to release it, I just picture myself trying to get to where I want to go in life by driving my car backwards using my rearview mirror as a guide.
It makes me laugh and re-focus my efforts toward the future, because I don’t know about you, but I know I wouldn’t get very far in reverse.
But, in all honesty, isn’t that what we’re doing to ourselves when we stay focused in the past?
The real question here is where do you want to go from here? Are you willing to give yourself the space to face the worst of your pain? Because we can’t truly release anything in life if we aren’t willing to confront it.
Have you ever asked yourself what you’re meant to learn from your pain? Is it resiliency? Patience? Increased compassion for others? T
Or maybe it’s meant to bring you front and center to appreciating the good things and people you do have, right here and now, even in the worst of times.
Get Back to Basics
Because sometimes it’s knowing what we don’t want in our lives that leads us to appreciate the positive things we already have in our lives, right?
Life can suddenly seem a lot sweeter when you get back to basics, look around you and realize there’s still plenty to be grateful for.
After all, gratitude is one of our greatest tools to finding perspective, healing and hope.
So, yes, continue to be grateful for the time you spent with those you lost or situations that brought you pain.
But, also remember the positive moments from the past, because they are truly a gift. Cherish them and hold them close because they will always be a part of who you are.
But, they were never meant to be your last. There is more joy ahead.
Seek New Experiences
Seek out new experiences. Be open to the gifts that are out there waiting for you to welcome them.
It’s also time to pay it forward. All the love and happiness you once had is energy. It’s meant to be passed on and shared and that is something you DO have control over.
And for those whose pain has come from abuse, pay all that love, joy and hope that you didn’t receive forward to someone who needs it most now.
You’ll be breaking the cycle and create meaning for others that will then continue to share it and pay it forward with others too.
So, until next time, my friend, as I always say….stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong!