“The phone is for you.“ I picked it up and a man identified himself as a policeman with the Littleton Police Department. He told me that something was wrong with my daughter, and I needed to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. On the emergency room driveway, I saw my father and another man I did not recognize. When I got close enough to the other man, his name tag read “Chaplain.” I immediately knew my daughter was dead.
I remember that moment. I was living a mother’s worst nightmare. I had very little experience with grief, let alone the loss of a child. The pastor who conducted my daughter’s service warned my husband and I that 50% of parents who lose a child will ultimately divorce.
I went back to work 5 days after my daughters’ death. I dove into my work and avoided the empty room at home. I was advised to read, On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross where she introduced the 5 Stages of Grief. There was virtually no mention of using positivity to cope with loss. As a result, I muddled through my grief with resources focused on analyzing the problem, not solving it. Looking back on it now, I am lucky that I was able to move forward.
After my dad died 8 years later, I came across the power of positive thinking. If someone told me that I could use the power of positivity to work through grief, I would have told them they were crazy, with a capital c!
A common response to adversity, death and tragedy is not trauma as one would expect. It is in fact resilience. When faced with challenges, we turn ourselves from being broken into to a mosaic masterpiece of art. When we lean into our challenges and look closely through a magnifying glass, all we see are the fragments of pain and suffering. When we step back away from the microscopic lens, we see how beautifully the pieces fit and that those pieces make us who we are.
So how do we build resilience?
You can start by developing a positive attitude. We cannot control what life has handed us, yet we can control the way we think and react to challenges.
What we tell ourselves is what we get. What we internalize and say to ourselves, is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell yourself, you will never ever get over the loss of your child, then you will never ever get over the loss of your child. Let me set this straight, you are not expected to get over the death of your child. You can reframe what you tell yourself. Say this instead, “I can move forward and grieve at the same time.” This small tweak in what you say will change the outcome of your life.
A positive attitude as part of mental health helps us develop resilience to grief and loss. Mental health encompasses the stories we tell ourselves to make us feel safe. The questions we ask ourselves and the answers we provide can be used either to bolster our mental health or destroy it.
Every day we ask ourselves inconsequential questions “Should I wear the white blouse or the print one? Should I take route A to work or route B?” Automatically, without much thought, we respond. In answering these questions and the actions we take because of those answers, our day will go differently. Maybe we receive a compliment about our new shoes which makes us happy or avoid a traffic jam because we took route B. However, the answers do not impact the way we see ourselves.
Now think about what you tell yourself about your present situation. How could you change your thinking by asking questions that require positive response? These answers can alter your future.
Now ask questions that spur an optimistic outcome. Look for ways that you can positively answer them, building resilience. When you answer in such a way, it will change the neuropathways in your brain. These little pathways are like a path in the grass. The more you use the new positive path, the more visible and accessible it becomes. The path that you stop using, filled with negativity, fills in with weeds and grass, making it difficult to follow. Your brain does the same thing.
Resilience is about learning how to adapt and even grow in response to loss, grief, or traumatic events. It will allow you to find strength and courage to move forward. As a resilient person, thinking positive thoughts will buffer you against depression and is a tool that can help you thrive.
If you are struggling with grief and loss, let go of embarrassment and ask for help. Schedule your free consultation and get started today. Coaching – The Grief Specialist