I was shocked and traumatized by the news I received. For a while I couldn’t function. I could barely survive. But I held on hard to hope – for without it: “What’s the point?” And there had to be a point, or you give into despair.
When I look back on the time, I can see the steps I took that helped me to stay strong, and which helped me find this hope. And perhaps there’s something here that will work for you, too:
1. Keep doing the same normal, routine things you’ve always done. You’ll have zero energy, and often doing the next thing will feel like an achievement. An impossible task. However, if you can still meet with a friend for a short walk once a week, or buy some groceries, or go and wash your car, there will be some things in life that still feels predictable. And “the same old” really matters when you’ve been traumatized.
2. Don’t hide yourself away; don’t isolate yourself. Yes, you need to be quite careful about who you spend time with. Also, you must be careful about who you share stuff with. Not everyone trustworthy, or will be there for you. Still, we need to be with people, even if we wear a mask. There is something to be gained just being in the world.
3. Do something that’s meaningful to you. That’s meaningful to you, and not to anybody else. Not because you feel you ought to, or because it’s meant to help. You do it just because it makes you feel a little better. Because it’s a distraction, and it’s what you need right now.
4. Look back to see where things have worked out in the past for you. Right now, you’re going to feel as if the whole of life’s gone wrong. Like everything a failure, and has been a waste of time. But that isn’t true. There have been times when things worked out. Try hard to find those times. Try really to seek them out. You need find exceptions to inspire you to go on.
5. Remind yourself that there are no grades in life. Your life is not a score card. It is about experiences. And how you deal with everything that life has thrown at you. It’s how those things have changed you. What you learned and how you grew. It’s how you were courageous, and fought hard, and persevered. It’s how it made you human, and much more compassionate. It’s how it gave you depth, and gave you greater empathy.
6. Remember the people who matter to you. For me, it was my kids. I wanted to be strong for them. I didn’t want to burden them, or add to their heartaches. I wanted to be someone who would model “Don’t give up. For you are a survivor. Please believe ‘there’s always hope.’”
“Hope is not pretending that troubles don’t exist. It is the hope that they won’t last forever. That hurts will be healed and difficulties overcome. That we will be led out of the darkness and into the sunshine.”