If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that pain is not comfortable. But I also know it is transformative. Pain is something that collectively, we try to avoid. However, if you’ve ever stepped foot in a Barnes & Noble, you know that some of the bestselling books of today are “survivor memoirs.” Although it’s uncomfortable, pain can be a critical part of self-discovery.
2016 was an extremely painful year for me. The events ranged from a broken relationship, a random seizure, a generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis, an attack that led to 26 stitches, family drama, and major life changes in general. I remember the night I found myself on the bathroom floor saying: “I don’t know what the purpose of all of this is, but I better be a stronger woman on the other side.” And I am. I was determined to thrive after the pain.
You’ve most likely heard of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder), but there is also research around the topic of posttraumatic growth, which leads to a new perspective/appreciation of life or a deeper connection to your purpose. So how do you emerge stronger from heartbreaking pain?
1. Don’t try to avoid it.
Although it is tempting, you will never be able to work through pain by avoiding it…you have to sit in it. You have to let it hurt, and you have to let your heart crack open for a minute. Let yourself be exposed and vulnerable, feel what you need to feel, and come out stronger on the other side. Take it one day, one hour, one minute at a time. Be gentle with yourself.
2. Have people on standby.
You’re going to have bad days and lonely nights. Understand that you are not alone, and you don’t have to work through pain on your own. Have friends on-call when you need them.
3. Take a break from sulking.
While it’s necessary to sit with your pain instead of attempting to work around it, this does not mean to let yourself sit in a dark room 24 hours a day. Actively and intentionally take a break from sulking. Schedule a coffee date or take yourself on a walk. Even if it is simply walking outside to get the mail (I’ve been there), the break will help your mind to breathe.
4. Talk about it.
Share with others. Connect. Don’t be ashamed of pain…ever.
5. Cultivate gratitude.
The thought of cultivating anything joyful might make you queasy at first, but as time passes, keeping a gratitude journal will help your mind strengthen it’s resilience muscle. This will help you slowly let go, become stronger, and help you to realize you are more than the pain you have been through.