Today I want to share some of my journey with you and give you tips on how to build resiliency as you grieve. Grieving the loss of my infant son gave me the opportunity to learn firsthand about resiliency. It’s given me practice in building it, and taught me how I can build my “resiliency muscle” so that when life knocks me down again, it’s easier to pick myself up. What is resiliency? Resiliency is the toughness of character that results after leaning into and fully working through the loss of someone we love. It is the capacity to quickly overcome difficulties when the world knocks us down. In the years since my son’s death in 2011, life has given me plenty of additional opportunities to practice resiliency. Don’t get me wrong. Life that can still knock me down at times, but now I can get up quicker than I did before. I see it as yet another gift of grief, a lesson, and a toughness I carry with me. Here is one of my many personal experiences with resiliency.
I miss my baby boy and I miss my life. I am sitting alone in my family room with the blinds closed to keep the room dark – like I had so many days before. I don’t want to let the light in. I want to hide from the world for fear that someone will see what is happening inside me. I sit alone and am afraid as I continue to watch my world crashing down around me. Happiness seems so far away and I am feeling like a spectator of my own life.
I am purposefully isolating myself from the rest of the world. I feel alone and hopeless, and so defeated that I want to give up. Overcome with grief and pain, I fear the worst. Am I going crazy? Isn’t there anything I can I do to stop this? I want to call someone but I can’t because I’m ashamed of what is happening to me. The storm of grief surrounds my body and makes me feel like my heart is going to explode. As I catch my breath, my heart starts beating faster and my eyes dart back and forth, as my mind tries to figure out what to do next.
Even today, telling this story is hard. I didn’t like what was happening to me and I certainly didn’t want anyone else to know what was happening to me either. I was trapped, stuck, and seemingly without any options. All I wanted was to get away from the turmoil of my mind. I wanted it all to end.
I walked into my bathroom looking for options. There, sitting on the shelf, I saw the pills I was prescribed but never took. I held the bottle in my hand and stared at it for a long time. Was this the answer? Was it time for me to finally give up? I knew that I could take these pills and the pain would stop. It could all end so quickly.
Today, I’m grateful I didn’t choose to take my own life.
How did I pull myself back from the edge of darkness like this? It’s a question I thought about long and hard. What was it that made me decide not to take the pills when I felt like I didn’t have any other option? Why did I choose to put them down and walk away?
The answer is resiliency. Resiliency kept me safe and taught me to look within. My situation made me to forget who I was. I started looking externally for something that wasn’t there. I came to realize that the answer I was looking for wasn’t about who I should call or what I should do next. As I stood in my bathroom holding the bottle of pills, what kept me alive was the reality that I wasn’t someone who gave up. Everything I needed to keep me safe was inside me all the time. In my darkest hour I reminded myself of who I was and why I was here. And as I began asking myself “Who are you?” over and over again – the answers finally started to come. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a daughter. I am a friend. I am strong. I am compassionate. I have loved and I am loved. I do not quit. I fight. I fail but I get up and I keep going. I am a survivor.
Resiliency is what kept me alive and although I didn’t know this in my bathroom, I’m aware of it now. Each time life knocks me down is yet another opportunity to practice building my resiliency muscle. And each time I get knocked down, it’s a little easier to pick myself up. Grief has given me the gift of resiliency.
Should you ever reach your darkest hour, I invite you to ask yourself, “Who am I?” Focus on getting in touch with who you KNOW yourself to be and listen for the answers to come to you from within. Build your resiliency muscle and keep on fighting because you KNOW who you are and why you are here. YOU do not quit. YOU fight. YOU give yourself permission to fail, YOU pick yourself up and YOU keep going. YOU are resilient and YOU are a survivor.