“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt
Life is an unpredictable experience filled with peaks and plateaus. One thing is certain, at some point on this wild ride you will find yourself in hard times. Not everyone experiences the same kind, but life does offer each person struggle in some way. When you find yourself in this situation be gentle with yourself.
There is no true way to ever be fully prepared for hard times. Similar to a hurricane, you can have an understanding that they will happen, but until you live through the experience of the storm and the aftermath there is no way to truly know how these events will impact you and your life.
I have experienced many hard times, but my father’s death in January was absolutely devastating to me. My relationship with him had ebbs and flows just like any relationship does. He had been sick and when I moved closer to home three years ago we used to spend our Fridays together.
We would go on drives through the country, looking at the scenery from the car windows. He would tell me stories about his friends when they were younger, living in California during the sixties, the things he had been reading about, and his newfound interest in going back to church after fifty years since being an altar boy.
These drives were so special to me. I think I miss them the most.
I knew that death was inevitable, but I didn’t know when it would happen. Preparation for this situation was impossible. There were overwhelming feelings of grief as I was pushed into basic survival mode.
By slowing down, I found some ways to help process this situation so I could eventually feel my feet on the ground again. Hopefully you will be able to pull some ideas from here to help you process as well.
Take a step back.
When faced with life changing events it’s okay to take a step back from things. One step, two steps, as many steps as you think you might need. Our lives are always in constant movement. Families, jobs, and social events are just a few things that fill up and demand our time. At any given moment, there is always something to be taken care of.
During hard times you may benefit from taking a step back from all of these heavy demands of life to focus on basic survival. Even the most mundane task may seem overwhelming when your body and mind are processing a situation. Be mindful of how you feel and begin to focus on your own healing.
My father died in January. He went into the hospital the day after Christmas, died six days into the New Year, and was gone twelve days before his sixty-ninth birthday. He was sick and we knew we would eventually lose him, but we didn’t know when, and it was earth shattering when he left us. This year turned into a time of grieving and a transitional period.
When someone leaves you are left to rebuild a new life without them in it. At the same time, I was going through a job transition. I was leaving a job, taking two weeks of training and moving into a different job. I had the dates planned out perfectly for this life change. The loss of my father was so great that I became physically, emotionally, and mentally drained. I stopped going to work, was unable to execute new ideas from the training, and had to move into my new job at a snail’s pace.
During this period of time I had to do whatever I could to keep my feet on the ground and find my focus. While being constantly pulled in so many directions there were still bills to be paid. Know there is only so much energy to go around, my energy was focused on what I needed to do to get by. I was not climbing mountains and reaching peaks at this point in my life. I was walking plateaus as best I could.
Evaluating what was most important to me at this time helped me keep focus on where my energy needed to be. It was very clear to me what I needed to do and what I needed to take a step back from.
I spent as many minutes with him at the end of his life as I could. I spent as much time with my family as I could. I also continued showing up to teach yoga classes on the day he died as well as on the day of his services to be able to meet basic needs. Determining my focus helped me realize where my energy needed to be. I was able to take a step back so I was able to take a step forward with best intentions.
I had to slow down to process. I took a step back from it all. Even to this day, I am still processing and I know I will again step forward but I am simply not ready at this point. At this point, I survive.
All hands on deck.
Surround yourself with loving and supportive people during hard times. These are your people, they will be the ones to help you through this difficult period and help you find yourself back in the world again. They will be there for you as you navigate your way through this period into your new self and new life. They are your people.
Allow these people to be there for you. They want to be there for you. They want to show up for you. Allow them in. It may be hard when you want to isolate into pain, but connection is so important to healing.
Connecting with others may mean watching movies together, sending texts when you feel alone or meeting for coffee and talking about anything and everything. These people love you so much. They want you to feel it.
For me, a Facebook post began an outpouring of love and support. I am grateful for each person who liked, commented, messaged, called, texted, showed up, cooked me dinner, let me shower at their house and simply lay on the couch.
They were there for everything. They were the wall to hold me up and a soft place to land at the same time. They wanted to be there for me. They had no idea what I needed and had no idea what to say, but they showed up and I got through it. Allow people to show up for you, lean on them, they will support you.
All hands on deck can mean people who you have known forever or people you are just inviting into your life. The feelings we experience are universal. You might be feeling something and the stranger sitting next to you might be experiencing the same feeling.
Sometimes finding connection with someone can be a difficult struggle. When feeling such deep emotions it can be hard to figure out who to turn to for support during these times.
There are so many routes to go—people we know, support groups, community forums, counselors, doctors, religious environments, blogs to read, or social media are just a few places to find support systems to help you through hard times.
Even reading books about topics similar to what you are going through can offer some clarity. Try out different things and see what works best for you. You may find someone going through the same thing in the most unusual place. Keep yourself open to it.
Take all the time you need.
Hard times guarantee a change in life’s rhythm. Great changes are happening as one part of life ends and another begins. Hearts and minds are evolving from this experience and that is transforming how we see the world around us.
During this period of time, be gentle with yourself. Give yourself all the time you need. Listen to others’ stories, but know that you are in your own story and you know what’s best for you. If you need sleep, then sleep. If you need to cry, then pour. Listen to your body and give yourself what you need. There is no rule book or time limit for healing.
Right after my father’s death, I thought I would go back to being myself and fall back into my regular rhythm in no time. I didn’t realize these hard times would shake me up and change who I was and the way I saw life, but they did.
Walking in the woods, watching movies, and reading in bed are just some ways that I have been taking my time to absorb this situation. I have cried everyday and I’m not sure if that is going to ever stop. I just keep giving myself more time.
Each day I fall back into the rhythm of this wonderful life that I live. Then some days I fall back out. It is a process that I am fiercely trying to honor. I am trying to be gentle, to be in it, to always keep moving forward.
When you find yourself experiencing hard times, soften into these sharp edges in life. Step back from the pressures of the everyday, feel the love and support around you, and take all the time you need. You will come to trust in the magic of life again.