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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in ...  (More)

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We Try to Do This

Uploaded: Oct 22, 2022
At times in life, unexpected situations arise that cut you to your knees. For example:
- A job loss; along with our identity
- A divorce we didn’t see coming or want; or even one that we did want
- The death of a loved one
- The death of a child
- Cancer or other health issue
- Miscarriage
- Financial loss
- Yours goes here

And yet, in nature, a new tree grows out of a stump. Plants take hold in a lava flow. One flower blooms way past the prime time. New Sequoias can only grow after a fire.

As humans with both cortical thinking brains, and limbic emotional brains, you can choose and work toward growing again out of destruction. It’s simple; not easy.

It begins with kindness to yourself. No blame. Please understand that devastating circumstances effectively put an invisible veil between you and your life, even between you and those you love. Life seems to keep going, but it’s too fast, too loud, too bright . . . too much. Especially during the holidays.

I wish I had a magic wand that with a wave, could heal you immediately while learning all you need to learn, and growing through this phase without feeling the pain, grief, discomfort, or loss. Alas, I don’t have that power. So you have to do it the human way: feel your feelings, rebuild a new normal, learn whatever you can, and not shrink away from life because of the trauma you’ve experienced.

It’s true that without struggle, the highs of joy are muted.

It’s also true that struggles can lead to suffering. To me, suffering on top of struggles is so much worse, and it often seems to be self-driven. Let me give a personal example: I have migraines that can be dibilitating. They are painful, I miss out on activites with loved ones, they disrupt my life, it’s hard to make plans and know I can keep them. When I stay with what’s happening, i.e., I have a migraine and I just have to wait it out (using my tools and meds), I stay in my migraine struggles. When I start thinking too much about migraines and how they ruin my life, as in: they’re not getting better fast enough, my life sucks because of them, I hate this, I’m miserable, the unrelentingness, the pain, the loss, the fear, the extra burden on my husband, letting down others, etc. I hate feeling helpless. That’s generally followed by a burst of tears. Now I’m suffering about the migraines on top of having them. Fortunately, I don’t go there very often anymore; but I do occasionally. I’m human, too.

You can’t change the shitty thing that happened to you. What you can do is respond in ways that help you heal, and avoid adding destruction and suffering by being cruel or hard on yourself.

Today, while you’re having a good enough day to read this, start of list of things that make you feel good--without numbing yourself. Your list could include anything. Here are a few ideas:

- Be outside
- Get into nature
- Exercise
- Play or watch sports
- Walking meditation (notice and name to yourself in great detail what you see, hear, smell, touch: e.g., an orange rose with red edges that smells incredibly good, kids riding bikes and laughing, a bird that swooped so close you heard and felt the wind on your skin, etc.)
- Listen to or play music
- Watch a movie
- Dance
- Bake
- Cook
- Talk with your best friend
- Find ways to honor what was lost
- Know it’s okay to cry (it doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you have human feelings; you will eventually stop crying, despite what you might think)

Here are things to avoid:

- Alcohol (it’s a depressant)
- Over-sleeping
- Over-eating
- Being still to much
- Ruminating (thinking the same things over and over). Ask yourself if there’s a new thought in there.
- Isolating
- Figuratively sticking your head in the sand
- Sweeping it under the rug
- Pretending you’re ‘fine’ (although at times, ‘fake it till you make it’ can help you out of being stuck)

There’s a Leonard Cohen song called Anthem:
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
Community.
What is it worth to you?

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