Building Resilience

By: Angelina Nevens, MA, LMFT

It is part of the human condition to struggle with those moments in life that cause us to say, “I wish I had... I should have... I won’t get to... I didn’t get to...”. 

We have always struggled with grief and loss. Our whole lives have been a series of experiences priming us for the inevitable. Many people associate the term grief as the feeling attached to the death of a loved one, but the feeling is connected to almost any loss we can experience. The loss of a pet, moving away, losing a friendship, a breakup, a miscarriage, losing your job, missing a important life event, the list goes on. It can be dealing with pain that happened suddenly or over a long period of time, either way, it stirs up those aching feelings of guilt, sadness, numbness, confusion, anxiety, fear. These are all normal feelings and they are not the feelings we typically want to embrace. Instead we would rather push them away, stuff them, forget them. But when we do this, we are also shoving away all the good that once came from those special moments. 

Our modern busy world does not allow us acknowledge how difficult these everyday experiences affect us. Society has taught us to move on from such sorrows without taking the time to properly process and heal. Healing takes time. Now, with that in mind, add our current life situation of the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic. Every tool and coping skill we once utilized to get us through those hard times have in many ways been removed. Social distancing has amplified the difficulty to lean on those we need most, It has isolated us. Each day we may be facing a new battle and we are forced to adapt quickly to those changes. When we experience a loss,  there is a social component that aids us in our grieving process so we are not alone. Attending a funeral, hugging our friends, crying in someone’s arms, going to church. We must be creative in finding ways to heal. There is no moving on from a loss, it becomes a part of you and your life experiences. You learn to live with the pain, manage the pain, and grow from the pain. 

Growing up, grief was something I understood better than any other emotion. Reflecting back, pain was better understood than happiness, joy, love. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I came to recognize that I had lost so much at such a young age. Almost any type of loss you can imagine, I’ve lived through it. It’s the tragic losses that still cripple me. I replay in my mind those moments where my life changed within a moments notice. For other individuals who have lived a life like me, some may see the world as a place that takes and takes, leaving you lost and alone. It took a long time to not see the world through this lens. I had to change my whole perspective on how to survive the deck of cards I was dealt. I learned to embrace the fear and grief. Instead, I started to look for the life lessons, ways to channel my anger and sadness, look for areas to grow, and reasons to still have hope. The pain never goes away, it comes back in waves. Some days the pain is brief, other days I cry and cry, I struggle hard. Sometimes it feels like the moments just occurred and other days I am able to simple reflect and smile on the memories that once was. Over the years I have needed the support from friends, family, and psychotherapy. This has been a gift, an act of self love. Ultimately, my life experiences became the foundation for me to help others through their pain and suffering. 

I am here to remind you, you are strong, you are resilient, you will get through this. Whatever pain you are experiencing, you are going to weather this storm. But I must warn you, you may not be the same person you were prior to your loss. How could you be the same? Loss does that to you, it takes you apart and if you let it, it puts you back together again, even stronger and more aware of pain that is shared when something or someone you cared about is gone. At times, you may feel lonely, lost, afraid, but you are not alone. The whole world is going through it’s own version of some kind of loss and it is now more than ever when we have to come together to understand this universal pain we are suffering. Those plans, hopes, dreams that once existed may not play out like we hoped, yet we still have the power to make our experiences special and meaningful. I encourage you to take all the unknown you are facing and channel it to ask yourself what is most important to you, who is most important to you, why is this important to you. This is your life, you may not get to choose the deck of cards you are dealt, but you can choose how you play. Life is about change, and if you learn to adapt to the curveballs life throws at you, you will become stronger. If you are finding yourself struggling, it’s okay to not be okay. Reach out to a trusted friend, family, or healthcare professional. Your time is now, take care, and be kind to yourself.