It’s been twenty years since my newborn daughter, Grace, died. If that last sentence felt like a kick in the gut to you, I’m sorry. But really, really, truly. I’m okay.
Many, many people want to know how it could even be possible to “get over” such a thing, much less triumph.
It’s not easy, but it CAN be done. In fact, if you read on, you’ll find some of the secrets of people who triumph.
First, one of the things that helps me share my story with a modicum of dispassion is distance. Still, I don’t want to start our conversation with a misunderstanding.
It’s not TIME that has healed my sorrow. It’s been a whole lot of HARD WORK. And, as Frank James and Russell Friedman share in The Grief Recovery Handbook, “Hard work takes time.”
In my work as a Mid-Life Reinventionist, I meet so many people who have difficulty moving forward because of the cumulative weight of unhealed loss. Old wounds get heavier over time. Not lighter. You feel more pain, not less. Resentment, fear, bitterness – all of these are rooted in our broken places.
When you experience a loss, a deep sorrow, and you don’t deal with it, it’s like breaking a bone and expecting it to heal on its own. It may reknit itself. But it won’t heal correctly. While the acute pain may dissipate, but your full range of motion is never restored.
When you do your “grief work” though, not only is your full range of motion restored, you actually achieve increased emotional and spiritual mobility and flexibility. You are able to move on and achieve things that WERE NOT ACHIEVABLE before your loss.
That’s because, with right action, your sorrow will dig a deeper trench for joy to flow in.
Your job is to clear the trench, so the joy flows freely.
When you get to this place, though, you may hit a rough patch. You may find it tricky to find support for your “grief work” among regular folk. That’s because our culture teaches us to how to “get things.” Not how to lose them.
No worries, though. There ARE “secret” strategies that you can use to help yourself.
Here are a few ways to transform your adversity into triumph:
Secret #1 — People Who Triumph Go Against the Crowd. Not everyone you know will “get” why you are intentionally bringing up “old stuff.” No matter. You don’t need everyone in your world to understand the work that you are doing. This lack of support can make you feel like you are swimming against the crowd. You are. People who triumph – in ANY domain – swim against the crowd. You don’t need everyone to move with you – just a few dedicated friends.
Secret #2 – Feel Your Pain. THEN Let it Go. The most important part of this secret is the word “THEN.” It’s very important to work this secret in the proper order. People who get stuck, people who suffer from old and festering sorrows, skip that “feel your pain” part. Their sorrow persists because they attempt to short-cut the process.
Secret #3 – Give Time Time. Everyone wants to know how long it takes to get through something hard. The answer, of course, is “it depends.” It depends on the nature of the sorrow. It depends on how much support you have. It depends on your “loss history” and how many old wounds your current loss triggers.
Here’s the thing, Sweet Pea – when it comes to healing, there’s not an awful lot you can do to speed things along. BUT, there is an awful you can do to lengthen your suffering. Keep moving forward with your “grief work.” The only way out is through.
Secret #4 – Don’t Forget That “Let It Go” Part of Secret #2. At some point, you will grow sick and tired of being sick and tired. You will start to feel an itch to move on. This one is tricky because you may feel disloyal leaving your suffering behind.
When I got to this point, I had an additional sorrow to deal with. Because Grace was a newborn when she died — because no one ever knew her — I felt like my suffering was the only tangible evidence of her life. Letting go felt like another “final” death. But, the reason you are going to be able to move on is because you will . . .
Secret #5 – Seek the Gifts within Your Suffering. What? You heard me. I suggest that you look for the hidden gifts within your sorrow. Begin with gratitude and appreciation. Make a list of all the things your sorrows and losses have taught you about life. This list may include new relationships, new understandings, freedom from fear – anything at all that you have gained because of your loss. Believe me, your gifts ARE there. If you decide to claim them.
Secret #6 – Get Legacy-Minded. People who triumph eventually come to understand that their experience is immensely useful to others. At the very least, you know how to help another person heal. Make a point to make a point to make good from your hardship.
Here are some ways I “make good” from Grace’s short life:
- After Grace, I had three sons. When I remarried, I got three more – SONS. Grace was the only girl, and it used to be really really painful to shop for “fart and scratch” gifts instead of girly girly things. SOOOO, every Christmas, I get all dressed up and I go shopping for a little girl. And THEN I look for a little girl in need who could use Santa blessings.
- This article is a “gift of Grace.” I would not be able to share the secrets of Triumph over Adversity with you if I didn’t KNOW them from my own hard-won experience.
- Family Gratitude Day. Every March 6 – Grace’s birthday, we spend the day having our own private family holiday. This is my way of teaching my sons how to recover from loss. We acknowledge her with a very brief remembrance ceremony, and then we spend the whole rest of the day celebrating the family that came after.
- My work. Ultimately the tragedy of my daughter’s death led to a whole new career for me. I now speak, write, teach, and coach on the area of “mid-life reinvention” at my site, Life After Tampons. This is work that NEVER would have been possible had my life not been graced by Grace.
If you persist, you WILL find a way to triumph. Because here’s the last secret of people who triumph:
Secret #7 – People Who Triumph INSIST on Triumph. They “Get it.” You can’t control an awful lot of what happens to you in life. But you CAN control how you respond.
Honor your losses by transforming them into your legacy — your beautiful “uniquely you”“story. THEN, generously share your newfound gift of wisdom with the rest of us.
Look for the beauty in your sorrow.
Jennifer Boykin is the founder of Life After Tampons (If you want to understand more about the process of healing from loss, I’d be delighted to send you my free 5-part eCourse, “Get Bitter. Or Get Better.” Sign up here for the course and updates.)
Photo credit: ‘Triumph‘ by Big Stock