As Lucy Hone put it in her 2019 TEDTalk: “Resilient people get that ‘sh*t’ happens.” She had been studying resilience for over a decade, was familiar with the research, yet found it woefully inadequate when forced to find her own resilience in the aftermath of a car accident that killed her 12-year-old daughter. During the time of grief that followed, she identified three approaches that made a real difference. Here is a summary of what she found:
We’ve all dealt with adversity and suffering in one form or another – a loss, a broken heart, a natural disaster, being bullied, made redundant, mental illness, physical impairment, a pandemic and more. Resilient people understand that they are not being singled out by God or the universe. They know that “sh*t” happens, that suffering is part of life. It doesn’t mean they welcome the suffering, but they don’t experience it as discrimination against them personally.
Number two, resilient people are good at choosing carefully where they select their attention, managing to focus on the things that they can change, and somehow accept the things that they can’t. This is part of the overarching move away from feeling like a victim and instead assuming a sense of agency by being an active participant in the grief process.
One practice she found helpful was to think of three good things that had happened to her each day. Her own experience confirmed the studies that have shown higher levels of gratitude, happiness and less depression over a six month study period.
Number three, resilient people ask themselves, “Is what I’m doing helping or harming me?” This was the go-to question in the days after her daughter died. “Should I go to the trial and see the driver? Would that help me or would it harm me?” When poring over old photos late at night, getting more and more upset, she’d ask herself, “Really? Is this helping you or is it harming you? Put away the photos, go to bed for the night, be kind to yourself.”
So when you feel you could use a resilience booster (along with your vaccine booster), may you remember these three insights Hone is offering: 1.) It’s not just you. 2.) Get into a routine of noting three things you are grateful for today. 3.) And ask whether what you are about to do is actually helpful or might be harmful.
All easier said than done, but I believe she is right that resilience can be learned, and that moving from victim to active participant is key to regaining our balance and peace.
With love and a wide open heart.