My fiancé and I have just bought a house together and will be married by the end of the year. This marks a new beginning for our relationship and the end of a long season of sorrow. There were times over the past decade when I struggled to put one foot in front of the other, but there were certain things I discovered that helped me through the darkest of days.
If you are in a season of hurt, hopefully these suggestions will help you too.
Embrace the suck. In the movie, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Tina Fey’s character meets with a soldier who has lost both legs as a result of an IED. He could be filled with bitterness and blame, but instead, he is positive and joyful. He tells her the key to getting through trauma is to “embrace the suck and move the f*** forward.” He’s accepted he’s wounded and has found a life that works for him. Darkness can be transformed into something positive and powerful, but only if you face it head on. I always take comfort from Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Uses of Sorrow:” “Someone I loved once gave me/a box full of darkness./It took me years to understand/that this, too, was a gift.” Embrace it; accept it; move forward.
Permit yourself to heal. After I experienced trauma, it took me a long time to realize one of the reasons I wasn’t healing was that I wasn’t allowing myself to heal. I was afraid that if I got better, it would somehow minimize what had happened to me. Being happy doesn’t mean what happened to you doesn’t matter; it matters deeply, but it does not have to define the rest of your life. Until you give yourself permission to feel happiness, you will block any joy that comes your way. Believing you can still have a wonderful life is the first step to achieving it.
Find a guru. Whenever I am struggling, I always turn to the wise words of Pema Chödrön, Daphne Rose Kingma, Louise Hay, Anne Lamott, Cheryl Richardson, Kelly Cutrone, or Cheryl Strayed. When I’m too busy or stressed to read, I listen to audio books. At one point, I had Pema Chödrön’s Unconditional Confidence on a loop in my car for at least a month. It’s a wonderful place to start when you are down.
Keep active and eat well. When your life collapses, it’s easy to pull the covers over your head and mainline potato chips. But if you want to pull yourself out of a downward spiral, it’s important that you prove to yourself you’re worth saving. Eat fruit and vegetables; drink lots of water; exercise; get outside, and get eight hours of sleep. By nurturing your physical self, you are sending a message to your brain–and to the universe–that you have value.
I wish I’d known about Mary Oliver’s poem when I was grieving the death of my husband. It’s hard to embrace the suck, and yet, you’re stuck there, generally crying and flailing about. It’s more that it’s embraced/clinched you in it’s grip and won’t let go. Brenda
I was just thinking the same thing, Brenda, about the death of my 16-yr old niece – my brother’s only child – right before we moved to NY. It gripped me in such a way that I couldn’t even comprehend how my little brother could get through a single day. I still can’t fathom it. I know he says it’s through faith, one small step at a time…But I’m guessing he would say that he is defined by that moment in time. Not solely, but yet, as a part of his being.
Beautifully written piece, full of good advice and wise thoughts … now off to google Mary Oliver’s poem and rent Whisky Tango Foxtrot…!
Jen, I’m so happy to find you here at this beautiful new exuberant and wize blog