Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thursday's Therapy - Resilience, part two - The Importance of Resilience

Thursday's Therapy

Resilience, part two

The Importance of Resilience

As a Child-Loss Griever, there is so much that is out of our control... The terrible pain of losing your child is debilitating; there is no getting around having to walk through our horrendous loss. There is so much we have so little control over. Just as we could not keep our child from getting killed, neither can we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps to survive such loss. It is only by grace, and by being willing to take one baby step at a time, of facing our loss, of grieving our loss, of looking for ways to survive even if no one else understands what we are doing or why we are doing it. 

A colleague of mine is a renowned psychiatrist in this town; when I told him of our Child-Loss, his words surprised me. He of course said that he was terribly sorry. But then he looked at me seriously and said, "Learn something new!" I was stunned. I said, "Yes, I know creativity is important to survive and to soothe our traumatized brains." He again repeated, "Learn something new!" Knowing that he is ever gaining knowledge about the latest research in the field, I recalled another psychiatrist, Bessel A. van der Kolk teaching us about trauma, that it is so important to learn something new... Our brains are so traumatized that they need help in being rewired. The basic steps of living can confound us once we lose our baby... The old wires are not working so well; they are worn down from the tragic shock; it's as if new wires need to be carved out for our survival.  

So I began to realize that just like a tiny baby in the arms of her mother is having her brain wired and re-wired as she sees her mother's responsiveness toward her, we too are in the process of beginning again, having our brains rewired little by little, creating new pathways so that we can process the unimaginable, the unbearable, the unwanted, the most devastating reality known to mankind. 

I had already begun "learning many things new" as I had delved into the world of the internet, starting a blog to help myself process my grief as well as to help other grieving parents who may have nowhere else to turn but to the internet (as so often, it is hard to even step foot out of our homes as they are our cocoons of safety). Some thought it asinine if not downright crazy to put so much energy into a blog when our livelihoods were compromised, and it would seem we would need to focus on getting more work... What they didn't know was that that was almost impossible. About all we could do was grieve. About all we wanted to do was grieve. We were in survival mode, and grieving was our way to survive. Now as I look back at some of the things I intuitively chose to do, I can recognize the critical part they had in fostering my healing, even if that healing was only inch by inch... In my own way, I was learning to be resilient even as I felt I was dying inside...

This article on resilience grabbed my attention last week. I had to keep in mind most of the people who write such articles have no idea what the world of a Child-Loss griever is like. But there are some truths they elucidate from which we can glean some kernels of hope...

The Importance of Resilience

Resilience is our ability to adapt and bounce back when things don't go as planned. Resilient people don't wallow or dwell on failures; they acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and then move forward. 

There are three elements that are essential to resilience:

1.   Challenge - Resilient people view a difficulty as a challenge, not as a paralyzing event. They look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from, and as opportunities for growth. They don't view them as a negative reflection on their abilities or self-worth.

2.   Commitment - Resilient people are committed to their lives and their goals, and they have a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning. Commitment isn't just restricted to their work - they commit to their relationships, their friendships, the causes they care about, and their religious or spiritual beliefs.

3.   Personal Control - Resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on situations and events that they have control over. Because they put their efforts where they can have the most impact, they feel empowered and confident. Those who spend time worrying about uncontrollable events can often feel lost, helpless, and powerless to take action.

The way that we explain setbacks to ourselves is also important and is made up of a few main elements:

·        Permanence - People who are optimistic (and therefore have more resilience) see the effects of bad events as temporary rather than permanent. For instance, they might say "My boss didn't like the work I did on that project" rather than "My boss never likes my work."

·        Pervasiveness - Resilient people don't let setbacks or bad events affect other unrelated areas of their lives. For instance, they would say "I'm not very good at this" rather than "I'm no good at anything."

·        Personalization - People who have resilience don't blame themselves when bad events occur. Instead, they see other people, or the circumstances, as the cause. For instance, they might say "I didn't get the support I needed to finish that project successfully," rather than "I messed that project up because I can't do my job."

Here are several further attributes that are common in resilient people:

Resilient people have a positive image of the future. That is, they maintain a positive outlook, and envision brighter days ahead.

Resilient people have solid goals, and a desire to achieve those goals.

Resilient people are empathetic and compassionate, however, they don't waste time worrying what others think of them. They maintain healthy relationships, but don't bow to peer pressure.

Resilient people never think of themselves as victims - they focus their time and energy on changing the things that they have control over.

How we view adversity and stress strongly affects how we succeed, and this is one of the most important reasons that having a resilient mindset is so important.


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