One thing that Covid 19 has done as it continues to take its toll in our weary world is provide the opportunity and exposure to the power of resiliency, the “bouncing back” from a difficult time or event. There has been such an abundance of loss this last year. So many people have lost loved ones, relationships, jobs. I watch my children and wonder if they are more prepared for the perseverance needed to weather the storms faced in high school, college and life after, or are they defeated and depleted from the mounting losses this last year has provided? How do some people cope with loss and challenge and maintain a positive outlook? And how can we develop it in ourselves, grow it in our kids, encourage it in our family members, and spread it in our community? Bottle and sell it and be set for life? How come some people survive and thrive and others crumble from the weight? Especially when someone has died or you lose something very valuable in your life?

“Protective factors” are things we think and do that make it more likely to find moments of happiness in the wake of adversity. According to Chris Johnston, expert in resilience research, these can be learned and nurtured. Fletcher and Parker (2013) identify the strengths of hope, gratitude, kindness, bravery. Additional factors include having determination and perseverance, perceiving the world in a positive way (optimism), finding humor, aligning with a sense of purpose, faith and spiritual practices, and having supportive people and role models in our lives.

Here is how we can help build our resilience. By honing in on a sense of safety, using and growing some of the “protective factors” listed above, and practicing compassion, we can help ourselves and others manage the pain of loss and find their way to greater peace in the wake of the storm.

  • Gain a sense of safety.

For ourselves: In grief, you may feel very unsure and unsafe when it comes to how you will get by without that other person. If it is a loss of another kind, it can really make us question our abilities and strengths. Go to others you trust and find safety in their being there for you. It could be even a moment of time when you felt safe with them. Consult resources (ex. institutions, literature or activity, a spiritual practice or ritual) that bring a sense of safety. Remember a time in your life when you felt safe. Feel it in your body. Write about it in a journal, or draw/paint it.

For others: Provide a sense of safety to others. Johnson suggests really listening to them. This is more challenging than it sounds, as we have our own life perspectives and beliefs. So, take a moment and listen to their suffering, their pain, before doling out the advice. Talk calmly. Be available. Be present, physically and emotionally. Be patient. And then be even more patient. “Grief needs to be witnessed,” says grief expert David Kessler, and everyone’s grief is different.

2) Pick a “protective factor.” There are many, but for example, let’s look at hope, a sense of humor, aligning with purpose, having role models.

Hope

For us: In grief, you may feel like you haven’t any hope right now. You feel hopeless, you have a hard time seeing hope in your future. Go to your family and friends, members of your community, grief groups in person and online. Let them hold the hope for you.

For others: (Your aging parents, sick friends, discouraged children). You can hold the hope for them. Even for a moment. Things can change. Everyday miracles happen every day.

Humor

For us: This is really hard when we are suffering. There is nothing funny about tragedy. But there may be something we can find humor in remotely related, or a funny memory. Take some time and really feel the sensations bodily in that moment, the movements associated with smiling, laughing.

For others: Watch for opportunity to find humor in something. Don’t necessarily try to be funny. Those grieving may not want to see a comedy show on TV. Just look for little nuggets of humor in daily life. And if they laugh, laugh with them.

Align with a Sense of Purpose

For ourselves: Asking ourselves what is our purpose right now? We may not know, because grief can flip us upside down and send us questioning a lot about ourselves. So, it’s time to do a little introspection and find at least one thing we may align with for today. Is it derived from our faith practices, like serving God or another force in our universe? If so, what spiritual practices help bring it home? Is it an intent to help others? Provide for our families, friends, members of our communities or global world? What actions, big and small, are we doing, or could do more of, that helps us “walk that walk”? What is one small action we can take today that aligns with that sense of purpose?

For others: Have conversations about purpose and point out actions that they are taking and actions they may want to take that goes with their intent. These can be small things they can do to reflect their beliefs.

Role Models

For ourselves: Who are the people in our lives that we know who have suffered and persevered? These could be friends, acquaintances, celebrities, artists, business CEO’s, authors, saints. I know a woman who took the California Bar (exam to become a lawyer) 6 times. Yes, 6 times. Failure is a loss. I look up to her determination and perseverance and I find it inspiring. We can look around at our parents, friends and see that others who have encountered losses big and small have managed to do some pretty great things and become some pretty amazing people.

For others: Is there a role model that could be an inspiration? Someone whom they can learn from or empathize with? Maybe you are the role model.

3) Practice Compassion

For ourselves: Have self -compassion. Rick Hanson, PhD. refers to it as “getting on your own side.” The idea of being kind, caring and encouraging to ourselves, what we have been through, our suffering and pain. Often times when things go “south,” our inner critic gets loud and tells us all of the things we didn’t do, or did, that we should have done differently. I believe that we can take responsibility for some of our own thoughts and behaviors, but beating ourselves up and shaming ourselves usually does not help the situation and often leads to greater suffering. Instead, lets give ourselves a break and realize we are imperfect human beings that can learn and grow, and practice a little tender loving care towards ourselves in healthy, kind ways. Finding a way to forgive ourselves (which is a process, not a “one and done” act) can also help.

For others: Acknowledge that others around you are suffering and find a small way you can show up for them. Drop off a kind note, flowers, or some token at the house of a sick friend. (This just happened to my daughter from a friend of mine and it really lifted her spirits and gave her a reprieve from some of her physical and mental symptoms.) Make a phone call or send a text to someone you know is hurting in some way from loss. Volunteer a few hours at a local event that may help align with purpose and support the grieving person. For example, if your loved one is grieving a loss from someone who died from breast cancer, do a breast cancer walk in support of finding a cure for breast cancer.

By finding ways to practice at least one these skills daily, we can brave the more challenging life events that throw us into chaos and pain, and help us persevere adversity and grief yet to come. If you could use some support with this, personal or professional, seek it out, and accept offers of help from others. There is no act that is too small.

Speak Your Mind

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