Coping with Challenge, Loss, and Change


Some days and weeks are more challenging than others in my ability to maintain my upward spiral of positivity and goodness. The last few weeks have been more challenging than most with one blow after another keeping my emotions on a roller coaster of grief and sadness as I ride the waves of transition and loss. Each time I feel my sense of self moving back to normal another shock comes along and I find myself tumbling into more raw emotion – more tears, more grief, more sadness, and more questions centering around “Why?…”

Yes, I have my daily practices of writing, meditation, gratitude, and yoga that anchor me to the moment. Though, I find during times like these, I need more to ground me into balance and bring me back to joy. So I write more to explore my questions, express each story, and sort through my emotions. My journals become my rudder to navigate the emotional storms. I am grateful for my daily writing.

Another practice important for channeling my disrupted and lost feeling is focusing on creative expression — I’ve made several journals, sifted through photographs for a new album, (even doing dishes and cleaning are creative channels) and I have a crochet project ready to begin. Each of these provide focus and each brings me into a fine balance of mindful action and mindless free thought — because they tap into a cellular memory from doing them so often, my hands know the way. I find a sense of quiet calm when I am in flow while making something new.

A practice that connects me to my spiritual self is to look for beauty in nature. Yesterday, I went for a meditation walk with my camera. Each step taken slowly and mindfully while opening my senses to beauty. Sometimes I’ll walk with a prompt or question then wait for what is before me — I listen to nature for answers, calm, or a redirect. My walk led me to explore my gardens. I was captivated by the lush growth and the recent challenges of weather. We’ve had an over-abundance of rain which invites overgrowth.

I then focused on the finer details. My eyes found something quite interesting as I stepped closer to a gourd plant — as it grows it sends out these spiraling shoots to grab hold of what’s available for stability and support as it grows taller. These reaching shoots create more than support, they generate my sense of awe and wonder as I witness the beauty and intelligence in nature.

Do I not also need something to hold for stability as I feel insecure and off my center? How do I find my anchor in turbulent times?

Later I reflected on my list of anchors I’ve recently utilized as reminders of my inner strength and resilience as well as support:

~ Reach out to a friend, whether by phone or in person.
~ Make something – like a journal, a weaving, or a photo album.
~ Make a plan for a next project when these are finished.
~ Go for a long hike into the woods feeling my connection to the natural world – not only are my hikes connection to nature, they are also movement which is always healing and calming.
~ Write in my journal exploring my questions and writing the stories in response to each situation.
~ Read something inspiring – poetry works well for me, as well as uplifting authors such as Brene Brown, Tal Ben Shahar, Megan McDonough, Maria Sirois, or Elizabeth Gilbert.
~ Give myself permission to feel all of my feelings. By expressing them without holding back, I move through them more easily.

By doing, I am reminded of using my strengths of appreciation and curiosity. I use these strengths on my meditation walks. I am also reminded of the research studies supporting the positive benefits of writing about troubling or traumatic events — writing about the same topic over 4 – 5 days allows me to integrate my emotions and my experiences into a greater sense of well-being. I am also reminded of the power of my breath to fortify my immune system, improve vagal tone as well as to lead me into my meditative calm. My creative self is grateful for my flow experiences that take me out of myself and into a focused process of creation — a healing balm in troubling times.

As I sit with a friend for support I feel the oxytocin – or know it’s being released through our connection – and find comfort in the positivity resonance shared between us.

All of these guide me in making sense of troubling times and make room for my thoughts and tears to flow while being balanced in positivity.

What do you do to lead you into a positive upward spiral during challenging times?


An Important Book Review: A Short Course in Happiness after Loss by Maria Sirois

Maria Sirois
Maria Sirois is an elegant and graceful storyteller with a wealth of stories from her own life and work. In her new book, A Short Course in Happiness After Loss, she reminds us that loss is an inevitable part of life which none of us is spared. Through her writing about loss, and I mean the kind of loss involving abrupt change to the core of our being and the way we think life is or should be. Losses such as death, divorce, and illness. These are kinds of loss that alter our reality (and often instantly) where we are taken out of our day-to-day normal and brought into the depths of raw and consuming emotion. All of these losses involve grieving and require time to heal.

Maria leads us through the journey with full permission to be in all the mess and emotion for as long as it takes. She leads us on an upward spiral through grief, hope, courage and onto the possibility of happiness with baby steps of awareness to rise up and see life as it is — a co-existing of good and bad, of up and down, of messy and orderly, sadness and joy. Maria’s authentic and raw honesty goes right to the heart and opens the door to moving forward into a life of meaning and pleasure. She is not talking at us about loss. She leads us, through real experiences, onto the path to healing.

Slowly, with tenderness and respect, Maria shows us that happiness — a life of meaning and joy — is possible when we begin to notice what is good, what is beauty, and onto what can be a new normal with joy as well as loss.

I was reminded of the morning my mother died and I went for a hike in the woods to cry, to remember, and to be cradled in the arms of nature. It was there I found a robin’s egg, newly hatched. I saw that coexisting was the metaphor of the release of my mother from this life for which I felt enormous grief and a glimmer of beauty and life continuing on in spite of the empty well I felt knowing my mother was gone.

Yes! I highly recommend Maria’s book for everyone, since loss does not discriminate who will or won’t experience loss. We all will, at some point. This book is an important guide through loss to the other side. A great short course to be, perhaps, better prepared when loss finds itself into our life. If you are in the midst of loss and wanting to find your own way to a new normal, this book is a beacon to find your own courage, awareness, and bravery on your journey.