I’ve always thought that my life followed the rule of three—when bad things happen, they tend to come in threes.
This was most true two weeks ago when, in the span of seven weeks I had given birth to my second child, lost my father to cancer and was still reeling from an unexpected departure of important person in my life. (Note: While the birth of my son was welcomed and wanted, the physical recovery from giving birth and adjusting to life with a newborn was more challenging than I remembered.)
I joked that I wanted to get good and wasted but truthfully, I never turned to that.
Instead, I faced what was happening with the attitude of, “Bring it on!”
At times, it felt like I was going to go under, but I managed to keep my head above water. While I am still dealing with these things, I feel oddly optimistic that everything is going to be okay and that the worst is over.
While I don’t claim to have a magical formula for dealing with it, the following things have certainly been instrumental in getting me through this time.
While everyone’s situation is different, the following were of great help to me:
1. Get in touch with what’s going on inside.
Now is not the time to be PC or worry what others may think. For instance, when my father died, I felt sad but I also felt a fair share of anger and relief. It was much better for me to acknowledge my feelings than to try and bury them deep inside—because sooner or later, they will surface.
2. Find an outlet.
Whether it’s journaling, running or even becoming engrossed in a TV series, it’s important to do something to release our feelings and emotions. In my case, a friend suggested I buy some modelling clay and pound the hell out of it to let go of some deep anger I had been carrying inside me for quite some time. I did it and can honestly say it was the best $15 I have ever spent.
While my attempts at sculpture will never appear in MOMA, I was somewhat comforting to see something take form out of the chaos.
3. Document what is going on.
At some point, another crisis or series of challenges will arise. In my case, I took a series of selfies which showed the physical effects that the stress was having on me. These were about as far from vanity shots as it gets. In one, I looked at least a decade older than I actually am.
While some may be wondering why I or anyone would do such a thing, I believe they will serve as a useful coping tool in the future. In other words, it’s a reminder that I went through hell and came out not just alive but stronger.
4. Remember that there will be good days and not-so-good days.
Many of us like to think that at some point, we turn a corner and all the hard times are behind us. I used to be one of these people until I learned that it’s not true. For instance, I was surprised how something would trigger me and bring up many things that I thought I were over.
In my case, I will probably never be completely over the death of my father, and I probably shouldn’t be either. For one thing, I’ve been accepting our complicated relationship for what it was—the truth is, my life will never be exactly what it was like before he passed away. And that is okay.
No matter how charmed someone’s life appears to be, no one goes through life without experiencing some tragedy.
Sometimes, though, it seems hard times happen all at once—getting through them can be a challenge, even for those of us who feel we are made of stronger stuff.
While there is no way to make it go away, there are ways and tools to help us cope.
It is important to seek the support of others.
In my experience, most people want to help and are willing to do so. If anyone is not willing to support you, then cut off contact with them at least during the crucial period.
Most of all, practice kindness to yourself. We deserve it all the time but especially when we’re facing challenges.
Author: Kimberly Lo
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photos: media library