I was five when my stuffed monkey fell apart. I’m guessing some trusting adult tried to console me and said, “You’re too old for that monkey anyway.” To prove how grown up I was, I tossed my blankie in the trash along with it.
A couple of hours later, I missed my blankie so much I cried until Mom dug it out of the trash.
Transitions are not easy. Over the years, I’ve become highly proactive because I’m well aware what it feels like to be blindsided. I’ve found that by thinking about the potential loss or change ahead of time, I’m better able cope when it actually happens? And by cope, I mean survive.
I’m not morbidly sitting around thinking what it would be like to lose one of my children or how my world would change if I suffered a stroke. But when I see others coping with these realities, I take note. What works, what doesn’t work? Maybe it’s the writer in me. Maybe it’s the social worker in me. Regardless, I believe there is value in examining future possibilities to help lessen the potential anxiety (after the initial trauma wears off).
My divorce was one of the most difficult transitions I ever went through because it involved such a variety of changes: lifestyle, residence, friendships, jobs. I had never been alone in my life. The fear of the unknown was a bit paralyzing.
However, along with the shock of those initial words, “I want a divorce,” I took my dog for a long walk to try to make sense out of the whole crazy situation. While that was impossible, I did come up with a short and simple to do list:
- Develop a Mindset–I gave myself a pep talk. I could not let these horrible feelings break me—I zeroed in on my faith, reminding myself I was not created by this man rejecting me. I was created by a God who hand-designed me. I still remind myself of this often because the world (and my own insecurities) would rather redefine and categorize me.
- Bring in the Reinforcements–I planned to call my mom—I didn’t call her right away because I understood the power of unchecked words. I waited a few days, and several sleepless nights, before we Skyped. She had walked this path before. Three times. She is a rock! During the course of the divorce, I cried so much. Mom said, “Toughen up buttercup. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.” That reality helped prepare me for those “tougher” times. It unfortunately did nothing to dry up my tears.
- Research. I lived in China. Because I uncovered lies, missing money, and safety issues two days prior, I existed in a world of paranoia with no friends or family to turn to. It felt wrong to research divorce, like the action somehow meant I was reinforcing it, but my gut told me I needed to be careful, be smart, and that knowledge was power. It didn’t mean a divorce had to happen.
Always trust your gut.
Three years later, I still experience some anxiety and fear when I encounter new situations, but I remind myself how I survived in the past. Dr. Seth Gilihan has a great article on the normalcy of reactions to trauma and how thinking about and discussing our reactions can help us cope.
While not everyone’s trauma level induces PTSD (as is mainly discussed in the article), the point is that future anxiety might be lessened by acting today.
Throwing away my blankie the first time was incomprehensible. My young psyche was not prepared to accept the loss, but sometime within the next year or two, when Mom went through her second divorce and we moved, I didn’t have the blanket. I gave it up (or it fell apart in the washing machine). Either way, I don’t remember it being a big deal. Losing it the first time, forced me to think about the reality that it would one day be gone.
Do you think about future losses and what it will mean for your life?
Have you ever pulled on a hidden strength to survive a painful situation?
Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day!