So, What Is This Thing Called Resilience?

We have all heard the expression that when “Life gives you lemons make lemonade.” I don’t know about you but sometimes I don’t want to make lemonade nor do I want the lemons! However, we know we really don’t have control over being the receiver of lemons. So, that is when I begin to think of my two choices which is always bitter or better. It is easy to be bittter and think that life isn’t fair (which we know is 100% accurate) and feel jealous and revengeful that in our eyes no one has suffered like we have, but I know that isn’t true. My heart goes out to the many who have dealt with much more than I have.

Sometimes though in the midst of a crowd, seeing a side view of a young man, hearing a song on the radio, looking at family pictures the ache I feel in my heart is still there into year seven of the loss of our oldest son. I know the heaviness, despair, and intensity that I felt the first days of his death do not cast the dark shadow it once did.

How do people who have lost everything in life continue moving forward? My guess is resilience. Resilience is defined as being able to bounce back after failures, setbacks, and losses. We all face problems and how we choose to deal with them makes a profound impact on the remainder of our life. After reading an article called “Building Resilience” by Susan Dunn, MA she quotes some attributes written by Dr. Tian Dayton. I began to think about what characteristics are needed to gain strength after a devastating life changing experience.

The following have been paraphrased by yours truly:

1. Self-reflection is needed to look at yourself realistically and have enough emotional distance to see yourself as you were and now how you are
2. Knowing what to do to live a life of value not spending energy digging trenches and throwing dirt on themselves and others
3 Articulating and knowing what they are feeling and sharing that with others which allows them the ability to face the pain of their loss
4. Having an awareness of their issues and vulnerability and seeing themselves in a realistic view not an idealized one. When life hurts they can own that hurt still moving forward.
5 .Coping with the loss by calling it by its correct name and acknowleding there is a grieving process
6 Separating the past from the present and living in the now. They have an understanding that focusing on unresolved business from the past is a sure way of sabotaging their future.
7. Finding meaning and purpose in their struggle. For some a spiritual transformation may take place.
8. Taking this experience and life struggles as an opportunity to grow and deepen their relationship with others and having a new sense of self.
9. Having a deeper understanding of life and a new sense of peace.
10. Most of all they understand that resilience does not happen immediately but eventually. It takes time and patience.

So, thinking back resilience begins when we are toddlers. We fall down we get back up. Our footing may be wobbly but as our confidence grows we became steadier. No one said, life was an easy rode without bumps, sharp turns, and even sliding down the hillside. One thing I know, when life gives me more lemons I might not be able to immediately make lemonade but I sure can begin to put some sweetner in it. I challenge you to do the same.