I wish I had a quarter for every time someone came up to me and said “I could never handle everything you’ve gone through.” On almost a daily basis I’ve heard some version of this phrase. Allow me to provide a quick recap of some of these things:
- My first child died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
- I suffered two miscarriages
- My second son has severe intellectual disabilities
- I endured an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage
- I ended up flat broke once I finally worked up the courage to get a divorce
- I’m self-employed and lost my largest client in the midst of the divorce
- I was forced to declare bankruptcy
- I met and remarried a wonderful man who was diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS three weeks after our wedding
- My husband can no longer work due to his disability and I will be the financial provider and caregiver for my son the rest of my life.
Yes, as I relate my story to people, their mouths usually do fall open and the “I could never handle it…” phrase comes out. But, as any survivor of a traumatic experience or devastating illness will tell you, the human spirit is stronger than anyone would imagine.
The experiences I’ve had are what people fear most, the things that keep you awake at night – the death of a child, financial ruin, divorce and chronic disease or disability. Yup, I won the entire basket of lemons. But, guess what, I’ve made the world’s largest jug of lemonade!
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had my share of pity parties, there are still days where I end up in a puddle of tears and I’ve definitely benefited from anti-anxiety medication. To be honest though, my melt downs are release valves that have actually helped me maintain my sanity and get through everything.
So, I’m here to tell you that you CAN survive anything! I started my coaching practice to help women overcome their fears and move forward through life….and divorce.
Here are my secrets for surviving life’s tragedies of divorce, death, disability and financial devastation
Recognize that you simply have no choice but to face the situation head-on. Once you’ve had a good cry, eaten a gallon of ice cream or drank a bottle of wine it’s time to put your big girl pants on and realize you just need to deal with it. I love the scene in the movie Moonstruck when Cher’s character slaps Nicholas Cage’s character and shouts “Snap out of it!” You can try to ignore the tragedy through pills or alcohol or even running away but you can’t hide forever. And, if you have children, you have an obligation to them to figure out how to Shut the FEAR Up and move forward.
Keep the faith and follow the path – When my son died, I went crazy when people would say that God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle. That was easy for them to say. Did I wonder why it happened to me? Absolutely. Was I angry at first? Definitely. But, even then, through my darkest days I prayed…a lot. I asked other people to pray for me as well. We may never understand why terrible things happen but keep your soul and heart open to answers and guidance. Your life can be taken in amazing directions you would have never expected. I never dreamed I would become a child safety advocate and TV spokesperson but I was compelled to speak out and empower parents to keep their families safe. I know that my physically disabled husband will one day require assistance and my kind, strong, able-bodied intellectually disabled son will need a job. I realize that I was the catalyst for these two people coming together to help each other. If you’ve lost your job it might have been the “push” you needed to pursue your life-long passion to be an entrepreneur. If you’ve suffered a tragedy it might be a motivator to become an advocate, author or inspirational speaker. Follow the path that’s being laid out in front of you or, as I often say, don’t fight the tide but ride the wave.
Surround yourself with the right people – While misery might love company it definitely doesn’t help when you’re trying to pull yourself out of a difficult situation. I talk a lot about the Law of Attraction in my coaching practice which, in the most basic terms means, like attracts like. If you focus on your current situation and the negative aspects, more of the same will be drawn to you whereas when you keep your attention on how you want your life to be, more of that will come to you. This also includes people. When you are surrounded by loving, positive, energetic people, you will be drawn into their energy aura. It’s similar to when you’re immune system is compromised – you’re more susceptible to catching a virus or cold. After a tragedy your emotional immune system is compromised and negative-energy people will wipe you out even more.
Practice gratitude – Sometimes it seems as if everything is falling apart in our life and there’s nothing to be thankful for but search for something, anything. When it became evident that my son was intellectually disabled and might never drive a car or get married or live alone it was pretty devastating. Literally all my hopes and dreams for him vaporized. I really don’t know what he will or will not be capable of in the future but there is one thing I know – he is one of the most kind-hearted loving people around. Parents and kids alike adore my son. And, while other moms of neuro-typical 16 year-olds might be bragging about some big milestones, I burst with pride when Spencer cooks me a meal or shovels the driveway for me or cares for his sisters when they don’t feel well. I’m grateful for every smile, every hug and every laugh.