Few things in life are ever certain, but at some point all of us are going to experience a major setback.
Inevitably, these things often come in sets or threes. Case in point: I once experienced an unexpected death, a major move, a job loss, and the loss of a long-term relationship all within a span of a nine months. At that point, I really did question what I had left to look forward to in life. It was the lowest point in my life, and one I would not wish on my worst enemy.
However, the good news is I got through it.
Still, other low periods would follow after that. There will probably still be others at some point in the future. Lest that sound gloomy, that is not my intention. Rather, I’m acknowledging that these things happen.
While there is no handbook for these hard times and each individual’s experiences will be as unique as him or her, there are nonetheless some things I have learned which have helped me immensely. Perhaps they will help others as well.
Therefore, here are four tips on how to get back on track after a fall:
Well-meaning people like to give advice. You may have heard something like, “It takes _______ amount of time to get over a break-up/job loss/death/etc.” or “Surround yourself with friends.”
While this may be true for some, there are no hard and fast rules for anything. For example, some people may do very well surrounded by friends whereas other may need time alone. Listen to what your inner voice tells you.
Also, don’t be afraid to (politely) ask people to keep their advice to themselves for the time being. Now is not the time to worry about rude. A true friend will understand if you make the request.
This is a big one. When I lost my grandmother to an unexpected stroke, I was living abroad and unable to make back to the US in time for her funeral. I never got to say goodbye nor did I take time to mourn. Yes, I cried and shared my grief with others, but I was so eager to get back to “normal” that I didn’t allow the impact of her death to fully sink in. As a result, it was not until years later that it hit me.
While my story may be extreme, many of us do not take time to mourn. This is often true in the case of break-ups. It’s common to hear, “Cheer up, no one died!” or “There are plenty of fish in the sea!” However, when a relationship ends, something has died. We don’t care about the “other fish” but rather, we want the one who is lost.
Therefore, it is important to mourn to prepare us for the next step of moving on. Some claim it’s possible to get there without this step but in my experience, it really isn’t for most.
Nothing can take the place of a good therapist, but most of us cannot have one on tap anytime we need them.
I am not a very spiritual person but at various times, I have turned to my late grandmother or a late friend of mine who passed away as the result of a senseless murder when he was only 27 years old. Usually, I would say aloud, “If you are hear, please listen to me…” Then, I would then tell them whatever was ailing me.
Needless to say, I did not get a response back, but there was something comforting in thinking that perhaps they could hear me, not to mention the added benefit of getting my thoughts out.
Even writing diary entries in the form of letters addressed to specific people can be helpful. In some places, they need not even have been real. (Think of Anne Frank and her famous journal where her entries were addressed to be imaginary friend “Kitty.”)
“Never look back” has become such a mantra that many of us don’t even stop to think about what it means. There is a big difference between dwelling on the past and looking back at it to try and make sense or learn a lesson.
Looking back may help us avoid such situations in the future or at least give us an idea of how to deal with them should similar ones occur again.
At the very least, we should be able to congratulate ourselves on living through the worse and coming out the other side.
In conclusion, even the luckiest amongst us are going to have to deal with setbacks from time to time. For some, it may seem that these come far more often than we would like. However, whether we are recovering from our first major fall or our 31st, there are ways to not only get through it but come out stronger than before.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Pete Toscano/Flickr