The cruelest myth perpetrated on society is ‘happily ever after.’ Pick your term of choice: lie, fable, deception, misdirection or alternative facts. Whichever you choose, the resulting realization is the same: You were misled — life hurts.
It’s a discovery you don’t have to search for to find. Pain will find you.
Spouses wander, loved ones die, economies crash, friendships falter. If it weren’t so, there would be no therapists, hospitals, anti-depressants or country music. But these things are all too real. They’re cruel necessities meant to help us cope with the merciless reality that fairy tales exist only in the minds of fiction writers.
But life is a non-fiction bastard, cruel and unforgiving.
So what do we do when our worlds fall apart? How do we cope with the sting of separation, the loss of love or the fever of failure?
There are no easy answers. If there were, counseling sessions would last 10 minutes and doctors would make minimum wage. So instead of platitudes or inspirational sayings, let me give you four lifelines to help you stay afloat while you wait for rescue.
Focus on what is still good
When life falls apart, it seems like there is no good left in the world. But the feelings you have in the midst of trauma are unreliable. The truth is there is still beauty even when the landscape seems barren. There are people to love, sunsets to enjoy, vacations to plan, friends to talk with and a life still to be lived. Find something to see beyond your trauma.
Find someone who knows your pain
As lonely as you may feel, there are others who have experienced what you’re going through. Don’t allow a cruel experience to force you into isolation. Look for people who can identify with your heartbreak and help you through it. Sometimes the best voice is a voice that whispers, I know exactly what you’re going through. They’ll listen, they’ll hurt with you and they’ll show you that you can make it.
Fill your life with something new
Anguish is a tragic but beautiful muse. When the life you once knew crumbles around you, it’s time to create a new life. Betrayal, deceit or shock doesn’t have to remain your narrative. Use that pain to steer you in a new direction. What is something you always dreamed of doing? Where have you always wanted to go? Who did you always wish to be? Whatever those things are . . . now is the time to pursue them. Start over and begin to dream again. This may be the last best chance you have.
Forget about going back
For the wounded, the past is a poison, a pain that will never be forgotten but begs to be healed. We are tempted to take up residence in yesterday’s atrocity, but the past is a crumbling structure. The only way to live again is to have hope for tomorrow. Thomas Jefferson famously said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” If the former things are bitter memories, refuse to recite them. Look forward, even when forward is impossible to see. Eventually, the fog lifts and the sun decides to shine again.