How To...Survive the Worse
Recently I went to a funeral of an old friend who died suddenly, to the extent that I still cannot fathom the reality of his passing. He struggled with substance abuse and unfortunately it got the best of him. For those who know me they know I do not do well with death and it triggered a lot of unpleasant feelings. I was reminded of my struggles with grief, depression, and suicidal thoughts and I wanted to address how to get through it! I don’t know if this post could’ve saved my old friend, but if it can help someone struggling to get through a tough time…I’ll be glad!
1. Understand your feelings are ALWAYS valid
Far too many times we convince ourselves that we don’t have a right to feel a certain way so we fight the feeling or push it to the side. I firmly believe that the most important step in getting through to the other side is to recognize the feelings and deal with them in a healthy manner. Pretending the feelings aren’t there because you feel they’re invalid or unnecessary is the very thing that will create more baggage for you to carry around every day. And the goal is to unpack those bags so the load is a little easier to carry.
*Transparency moment* I have to be reminded of this sometimes, included as I was preparing for this funeral. I was talking to my best friend and expressing how I didn’t feel like I had a right to be sad by his passing. She hard to remind me of this very lesson and it gave me the freedom to process and grieve in a healthy and complete manner. Sometimes you have to stop from our ever-busy lives and allow yourself the time to deal with whatever you’re feeling. There will never be enough time, until you make the decision to make time.
2. Take whatever time you need.
Do not feel rushed in any way to “get over” something you may be dealing with because we’re all built differently. Unfortunately when people are going through tough times, we live in a society that consistently spits out cliché yet insensitive phrases intended to give you comfort. These phrases include “Everything happens for a reason”, “It was apart of God’s plan”, or force-feeding advice when all you need is a listening ear. Or my personal favorite phrase of comfort “At least you’re young and you can always have more kids…”
I remember about 3 weeks after I’d delivered my twins prematurely and was struggling just to be functional every day. I started a new job just 3 days after leaving my sons in the hospital and I never really took the time to process the grief. Well this is how that conversation went, and it forever changed how I viewed the timeline of grief.
Them: You should be happy and thankful for all that you do have. I don’t understand why you’re so down all the time (fully knowing ALL of the details of my struggles).
Me: Well it’s only been 3 weeks. Most women take 6 weeks off, and they don’t have grief to deal with on top of that.
Them: So you need 6 weeks?
Me: I don’t know…but what I do know is that ‘functional’ is the best I have to offer right now. I wake up, go to work, and go to sleep and unfortunately that’s the most I can give right now.
This was the first time I stood up for myself and my grieving process. I realized that I couldn’t allow this outside pressure to guilt me into rushing the healing process. I didn’t want to push these feelings under the rug because I wanted to move forward in a healthy way which meant I had to effectively deal with the hurt and pain. I share that story so you can see it from both sides! Fight for your healing and take whatever time you need, and be sensitive to those who may be taking longer than you think they should to heal.
3. Do what works for you
Unfortunately there isn’t a rulebook for dealing with your particular struggles. I cannot tell you how many times I searched Google and YouTube for suggestions for dealing with grief. Whatever you need to do in order to get through your struggle…do that unapologetically. I can offer you suggestions all day long but ultimately what is going to work for you is different that what is going to work for me. Until you know what your effective coping method is, try different things to understand what makes you feel better.
Don’t be afraid to try unconventional methods and understanding that this is your unique journey to healing. “Whatever’s good for you soul…do that!” But I can’t leave you hanging without at least giving you a few things to try so I’ll share what worked for me. Remember this is a judgment free zone!!! Coloring was the most peaceful experience I remember when struggling the most, it helped me get quiet in my head and enjoy simple things in life again. Journaling, therapy, running, listening to heartbreak music, and watching movies were some of the other helpful healing techniques that worked for me. I pray you find your coping mechanism(s).
4. Cleanse your thoughts
Adjusting your self-talk is one of the most impactful ways to transform your perspective and therefore adjusting your experience. If you are able to correct how you talk to and about yourself, you will course correct the emotional road you are on. The quote “I think…therefore I am” completely changed my healing process for the better. While this is a commonly recited quote, take a moment to process what that means. If you think you’re depressed, broke, stupid, ugly, or a failure…you are. However, if you think you’re getting better, learning how to manage money better, capable of learning, beautiful/handsome, or a work in progress…you are! How you talk about yourself and the voices that play in your head make a huge difference in what you believe about yourself.
One way that can help you change the negative self talk are to be cautious of what you allow to enter your mind whether visually or audibly. We spend entirely too much time on social media for it not to be a place of motivation and inspiration. Unfollow people who are negative or unproductive and begin to follow people who are doing what you want to do. Listening to music that uplifting helps (unless you need to get out a good cleansing cry…go for it!). Also listening to inspirational videos and messages on YouTube helps!
5. Focus on your goals
There is nothing more inspiring than setting and reaching goals then moving on to the next goal. Set big goals for yourself then break them down into realistic action steps that you can consistently work towards accomplishing. Every goal you’re able to cross off your list will create momentum towards reaching the next goal. You’ll begin to feel better about yourself, your focus will be on productive things, and the results will create a better life.
Often times people struggle with determining where to start. My suggestion is to start with the areas that you’re the most frustrated in and pick the easiest goal and work towards the harder goals. Do not underestimate the power of the momentum created when achieving goals. Don’t have any goals? It’s certainly time to set some and figure out what it is that you want in life and write out how to go get it!
*Bonus* How you can help someone get through their worst
My number 1 piece of advice for helping someone you care about who may be struggling is to ask them directly “What do you need from me?” Even if the answer is nothing, knowing you cared enough to ask (instead of assume what you think they need) will help. If there’s nothing you can do to help the situation, sometimes company and comfort is the greatest gift you can give to someone suffering. Please understand some people prefer to process difficulties alone, so before you invade their space or neglect their need for your presence. Ask them!
Although I am a very religious person and have a genuine relationship with God, hearing that the miscarriage of my twins was apart of God’s plan by so many people of faith took a huge toll to my relationship with God. Because how could a God that I loved so dearly and I know can do absolutely anything…how can that same God allow my sons to suffer and die? While it may be apart of God’s plan and I can see that now, in the heat of my suffering it only caused deeper damage that took me months to recover.
Say less and listen more. We’re always quick to find the right words to say when someone we love is hurting, when sometimes the best thing you can do is offer them a safe place to vent. Without judgment, advice, or guilt just a listening ear allowing them to get it off of their chest exactly how they feel in that moment. Even if the person seems distant…don’t allow them to push you away. They may need you to fight for them because they may be struggling to fight for themselves, and you showing up for them may be the very thing that saves them.