Getting through tough times

What sustains you through tough times and gives you energy and hope?

This question cuts to the heart of what I hope to discover in this whole wisdom exercise.

When I asked this question, it unleashed a flood of stories, some of them tough to hear. Death of a spouse or parent or child, bitter divorce, wrenching illness . . . we all face tough times in our lives. The experts say everyone deals with loss in a unique way, but some people do seem to come through it with more resilience than others. When things are awful, giving advice seems wrong. Yet it may help to hear how others have coped. Among the guidance I heard from the women I interviewed were the following:

  • Renew your appreciation for the small joys of life: a latte on the way to work, the smell of fresh-ironed cotton, a narcissus on your desk.
  • Try “unconscious writing.” That means sitting down at the computer or with pen and paper and just letting the words flow. Let out all the bitterness and anger and sorrow and pain.
  • Notice gratitude –  for whatever is good in your life, for those who send notes or flowers or come to visit.
  • Surround yourself with your friends. One woman told me about her “chosen sisters” – girlfriends who circle around and comfort when something bad happens.
  • Take heart from the courage of others who have gone through tough times.
  • Seek out a therapist or pastor or support group.
  • Put one foot in front of the other. Look at the hand you’ve been dealt, figure out all the possibilities, and work from there.
  • Count your blessings along the way: when small things go right, when people reconnect, when you feel a surge of energy that helps you get through one day.

In my life, I’ve been fortunate, so far. My tough times have been fewer than most. But I appreciate the way these women shared their painful memories with me and gave specific suggestions.

What gets you through tough times?