Finding a silver lining from tragedy – blessings come in disguise. From Joan's personal experience, she will tell you your attitude determines how you view a situation and how you move through it. Attitude is altitude.
Q. Tragedies come in all ways: the death of a loved one, divorce, the loss of a job. Is there a definition of a tragedy or is it how a person views the situation?
Joan: A tragedy is defined as “an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress.” We understand the meaning of those words, however, I believe the important component is how we view the situation. What may be a “tragedy” to one person, is nothing more than a “bump in the road” to another.
While we can agree that death, divorce, a job loss, create less than desirable circumstances, each can be viewed and handled differently from one person to the next. The key is that person’s outlook.
There are people who see the glass half full in all situations and others who see it as half empty. We have a choice about how we view what occurs in our life and that choice determines how we will transition through a tragic experience.
Q. What is the key to getting through a tragedy?
Joan: First and foremost, we must recognize that we have a choice in the situation. When a tragedy occurs, such as a death, illness, divorce, etc., we believe that we are a “victim of circumstance” and that this will be our lot in life. We think that we will never recover. The key to moving on is to know that you have the power to change the situation. No matter how devastating a circumstance, you have the power to get through it. You are not a victim; the choice is yours.
After my mother and sister died and my 23-year marriage ended (all within a period of six months), I knew I was at a fork in my life. I could go one way and let the loss and pain defeat me—I could be a victim, OR I could go in a different direction and turn the pain into something positive, something with meaning. It was my choice!
We all have that choice. Some people create a charity from the loss of a child, others write books based on their experience, while others make necessary life changes such as getting sober. Tragedy has the power to transform us and it provides hidden blessings if we take the time to look for them.
Q. What if you fall apart, how do you pick yourself up? What's allowable?
Joan: I think what is “allowable” is what you need. Initial hurt, sadness, grief, are all normal emotions and they should be felt. Never suppress your feelings. The problem occurs when you allow yourself to stay stuck. When you assume the role of victim.
It’s important to get help if you cannot get going by yourself. Read books and seek information that can help you “get your head in the game”.
Reach out to friends and loved ones, isolation can make the situation worse.
Seek professional assistance if you are overwhelmed, depressed, or have suicidal thoughts.
Remember that you are not alone and that you have a choice!
Q. Is it ok to feel scared and lonely? When is it too much to tell to a friend?
Joan: It is absolutely OK to feel scared and lonely. Don’t ever let someone make you feel “less than” because you are grieving and in pain. Everyone heals in their own time, there is no right or wrong way to grieve and there is no timetable.
A true friend would want to know what is going on in your life. It is never too much to tell someone you love that you are in trouble and need help. You should never be ashamed!
Q. Ultimately, how do you find that silver lining?
Joan: There are blessings in every situation, but sometimes you have to look harder. When my father was dying from cancer, while it was a horrible experience, it was also a gift because when I took him for treatment every day, I really got to know him. We talked and laughed and spent precious time together. I had to look for that gift but now I treasure it.
How we experience our life comes from how we view what we experience. As Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.”