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Resiliency: It's Easier Said Than Done

June 14, 2018


Last year, I wrote this post for my first blog as a Sparkles and Sports feature writer. In it, I focused on one theme: resiliency - a concept that was particularly relevant in the months following my mom’s passing.


It’s been over a year since my mother’s death and roughly nine months since I penned that initial post where I vowed to be resilient in my approach to life. A lot has happened since I made that promise. Here’s what I really learned about myself and my honest outlook on life one year after losing my mom.


Sweating the Small Stuff


There is this notion out there that after experiencing a painful loss or some sort of trauma, you no longer worry about the little things in life. The perception is that after going through something so uncomfortable, you are unfazed by tiny problems because you have “a whole new outlook on life.”


This is not true. Not entirely, at least.


Yes, I gained perspective after losing my mom. I realized that my life can and will change in the blink of an eye, and I began to grasp how finite and out of my control my own life really was. But this new perspective has not changed the fact that I get frustrated when things do not go as planned. It has not changed some people’s knack for getting under my skin. It has not changed the deep annoyance I feel when people say ‘apart of’ when they really mean ‘a part of’. The list goes on. The point is, there are certain aspects of my personality that simply cannot be rewired, no matter how much perspective I have.


Bottom line - tragedy does not breed immunity, but it does help you discover new ways of coping with tough situations, and that is just as valuable.


Adjusting to New Normals


A few years after a family friend was diagnosed with a rare illness, she passed along a saying that stuck with me: “It’s not about ‘getting through’ a situation. It’s about adjusting to your new normal.” I took this to mean that there is no end goal when it comes to loss, no step-by-step guide to help you reach the finish line. At a certain point after your life pivots on you, you have to buck up and accept that things will not return to what they once were; you now have a “new normal”, and this will be the standard for your life moving forward.


Over the last year, I have wrestled with adopting my “new normal” in which my mom is not physically present. In the weeks following her death, I focused all of my brain power on relating whatever I was doing at the time back to my mom. When I saw a friend on Facebook post about their baby, I could only think about how my baby would not have a maternal grandmother. At a wedding, instead of basking in the beautiful moment in front of me, I was feeling sad for my brothers because they would not have anyone to walk them down the aisle. I held onto these bitter thoughts and feelings as a way to still feel close to my mom, as ironic as that sounds. As long as I could somehow fit her into my present life, I could feign that she was still actually present in some way.


To this day, although the thoughts occur far less frequently, I still find myself asking “what if?” when experiencing scenarios that my mom normally would have been a part of. The sentiment around them has changed though. Instead of bitter, I just feel sad - not the hysterical sad that engulfed me a year ago, but a more subdued, manageable sad. It’s not the improvement I was hoping for, but it’s an improvement nonetheless.


Summing It All Up


Whether you relate directly or indirectly to my situation, I believe there is always a lesson that emerges from an unfamiliar, uncomfortable experience. Some self-reflect and gain insight about their own behaviors. Others learn about their environment and how to navigate it.


For me, I learned that it’s one thing to vow to be something, and it’s another thing to put that promise to practice. I am an eternal optimist, so I understand why I made the statement that I did about choosing to be resilient. While I’ve done my best to keep myself accountable, I have also accepted that there is no prescription for emotional healing.


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