Friday, July 20, 2012

How to Cope With Grief, Disappointment and Disaster: 7 Keys for Peace

Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. ~ Christopher Robin to Pooh (A.A. Milne)

Life happens. Or more appropriately, 'stuff' happens in the middle of your well-planned life.

Usually unexpectedly. Often tragically. Certainly challengingly.

Stuff happens that we wish we'd anticipated... that we hoped we could avoid... that we would have prevented had it been possible. Sometimes we even pretend that it isn't happening (or won't happen), hoping it will just go away. You know what I mean...

    You go to work one morning... and come home unemployed.
    You go to the doctor... and find out you're dealing with more than you knew - and the bills to go with it.
    Your spouse tells you "I want a divorce".
    You're a caregiver... but no amount of care can reverse your loved one's condition.
    You plan as best you can... but 'stuff' overrides your plans and purposes.
    You wake up to a beautiful, sunny day... and it goes downhill from there.

It was a day like that for all of us on September 11th in 2001. We woke to a promising morning - until someone called and said 'turn on your TV'. The unimaginable and impossible became both real and tragic.

9/11 was a national disaster. But, what about all your personal disasters and disappointments? All of a sudden, joy and peace are gone, replaced by regret, remorse, anger, grief or depression. Your body lacks the energy to move forward. Your mind revolves round and round the problem, wondering "Why me?"

Yet somewhere in your mess, another thought pops up. "I'm stronger than this. I deserve better. And I can't quit. So, what can I do? How do I get through this?"

I remember vividly all those emotions - and a few more - while caring for my mom. She would have a pretty good day and I'd think, "Thank You, God. I am so grateful that she's getting better." The next day she would be too weak to eat and I'd wonder, "Why am I even praying for healing? Just end this, Lord. I can't do this anymore." Up and down, round and round, like an emotional merry-go-round - lots of activity but getting nowhere.

So, how do you cope?

    Remember your faith. Often when you get in overwhelming situations, the problem seems bigger than any solution. Not true. God is 'ever mindful of you'. Seek His comfort and wisdom. Pray for peace, mercy, wisdom and strength. Find His Word that speaks to your situation Affirm that Word as truth in your life. Use faith like a tool to connect you to Divine power. If God is for you, who can be against you? (Rom. 8:31) Faith is the victory that overcomes anything the world can throw at you. (See I John 5:4 and I Cor. 15:57) Remember that.

    Be good to yourself. Your mental, emotional and physical well-being are vital. You cannot help anyone else if you're worn down or exhausted. If you've ever flown, you know the emergency drill: put your oxygen mask on first - before you try to help someone else. So... get enough sleep. Take mental breaks throughout your day. Get out in the sunshine. Do whatever you need to do for your own peace of mind and spirit.

    Laugh. A merry heart is good like medicine (Prov. 17:22). Laughter releases chemicals into your system that counteract depression and other negative emotions. When life challenges you, search for funnies. Read jokes. Watch comedy TV. Laugh about your situation - even if it doesn't feel funny. Laugh on purpose - ha... ha, ha... ha, ha, ha - until your emotions catch up. Laughter is a great stress-buster.

    Ditch the guilt. If you have some responsibility for your current situation, be honest with yourself about it. Do what you can - apologize, address the issue, correct what you can - then let it go. Forget those things that are behind (Phil 3:13). Do not wallow in the past, dredging up every mistake you've ever made. You can't move forward lookin' back!

    Slow it down. You know those scenes in the movies when everything moves at half-speed. Every scene takes on a clarity that you might miss at full-speed. Slo-mo, they call it. When life seems overwhelming, slow down. Breathe. Refocus. Move slowly with deliberation. Crises seem to create chaos and confusion, but they don't have to. By slowing down your thoughts and movements, you can begin to feel more in control.

    Listen. God speaks to you in the quiet of your mind and heart. But if your thoughts are racing in turmoil and confusion - "What should I do? I don't know what to do!" - you won't hear His voice. Quietude is key to finding peace and wisdom. The Bible says to take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5). Seek peace and pursue it (Ps. 34:14). Meditate on comforting Bible verses. Listen to quiet music. Do whatever it takes to stay calm and open to new thoughts, ideas, insights and direction.

    Watch your words. Speak consistent with your faith - all the time, not just in your prayer time. Words have power. Use them to create what you want, instead of complaining about what you already have or don't have. Don't keep reaffirming your current situation(voicing your anger and frustration), create a new one! You can do it... with your words and your faith.

As long as we are here on the earth, there will be challenges to deal with, crises to cope with and uncontrollable situations that somehow need resolution. These seven keys will help you stay strong through the challenges and find the peace, strength and wisdom you need to move forward.

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