Remind Yourself How Many Things You Have Survived
You will survive the fallout from the pandemic, too — you are stronger than you remember
When we are faced with a crisis on a world wide scale, and we hear the word “unprecedented” over and over again, it is easy to scare ourselves into thinking this is something too big for us to survive. We have no precedent for this event, that is true. But what we do have is our own experiences that point to the fact that we are strong, and we can survive this, too.
When I look back at my life, I see how I survived things that tried to crush me — things that felt insurmountable at the time, making me question whether I would survive them. I know you have experienced those things, too. We all have. We can’t escape it. It is a part of the human experience.
It is important at times like this to remind ourselves how strong and resilient we are. To review all the things we have lived through when we felt like we would die. To affirm our ability to suffer, and get back up, and keep living. We need this reassurance from our own experience to remind us we can make it through this, too.
If you make an inventory of all the hard things you have survived, you may be surprised at what you have endured and overcome. It may make you a little less afraid of the unknowns we are facing now.
My inventory looks like this:
- My father died suddenly at 61. He went to work and never came home. I was devastated by this loss and did not think I would survive the black weight of this grief. But I did.
- One of my children suffered mental illness and was hospitalized several times. When I left the hospital, leaving my beloved child there alone, I came home and lay on the floor, wailing into the carpet. I was more broken than I had ever been in my life. I did not know how I was going to go on living. But I did.
- When someone close to me went into an indoor gun range and put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger, I collapsed onto the floor when I got the news. All the parts of me that had not broken before were broken now. I did not think I could get up off the floor and go on. But I did.
- When my marriage fell apart and I lost my house to bankruptcy, I was more angry and humiliated than I had ever been in my life. I lost everything — my marriage, my home, my money, my dignity. I wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear. I thought my life was over. But it wasn’t.
- When my youngest daughter walked out of my life at 18 and never came back, I spent a year crying every day. The grief and shame felt like more than I could bear. I was being crushed beneath the weight of it. At times I did not want to go on living. But I did.
The point of all this is that I know I am not the only one who has faced enormous hardships, griefs and tragedies. We all do. And we all survive. Humans are strong and resilient, and have managed to go on living for thousands of years, through plagues, wars, pestilence, and famine, and we will survive this pandemic, too.
Each time I experienced tragedy or loss or hardship, life changed. It always looks different on the other side. We go forward without something that we had before, whether it’s a person or a house or a life. But we take what’s left and we craft a new life based on our new reality. If we are wise, we will grieve our losses, honor what’s passed, and move ahead to the future with courage and determination.
Epictetus, a Greek philosopher from the first century (CE) said, “It’s not what happens to you but how you react that matters.” He was no stranger to hardships, himself, being born a slave and then later banished from Rome.
We all have a choice right now about how we are going to react to this drama that is unfolding on the world’s stage and in our own backyard. None of us are exempt from feeling the effects, and some will feel it more than others. But we are all strong and able to survive this. We have survived hard things before. We can do it again.
Trust yourself to make it through this, no matter what happens. Trust that you are going to be ok. You may be a little bruised when you come out the other side, but you will heal. You will survive. You will look around and see what’s left of the life you once knew and you will pick up the pieces and use them to make a new life. You have done this before. I know you can do it again.