Life is full of uncertain times. We’re in the middle of unprecedented days full of future unknowns. Parents of wayward, troubled teens or adults have an added strain. Their children are not doing well with all the stress, especially those in the early days of recovery or with an unstabilized mental illness. Their kid’s anxiety is off the charts. Many are also at greater risk of contracting the virus due to risky lifestyles. Homelesness makes it worse.
Closings and restrictions of all kinds abound, compounding a general state of disease: air travel, nation’s borders, schools and universities, businesses; even parks, beaches, and campgrounds. These closings have caused losses of all kinds: employment and income (at least the way you conduct your job), financial security, social interaction (conferences, weddings, and sporting events), physical touch with friends or co-workers (social distancing—a new term), and our peace of mind.
A Unique Grief
This situation has brought us a unique type of grief called ambiguous loss. Dr. Pauline Boss Ph.D. coined the term. Grief of this kind occurs when we anticipate a loss in the future or it’s not obvious and there’s no way to have any meaningful resolution or closure. Helpless and powerless, there’s’ nothing we can do to prevent the changes we see coming. This loss feels the same as knowing a loved one has terminal cancer or the company you gave your life to for over 40 years is going bankrupt..
What do we need?
How do we become resilient? I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations on this topic. As a result, I discovered eight ways to grow resilience in our souls.
8 Ways to Develop Resilience
1) Simplify Your Life
Cutting back, saying no to every extra, nonessential activity for a season until strength returned…I created margin in my life. Breathing room. Space. How wonderful to be freed up, to have time for rest when it was really needed. Simplifying helped lower stress and preserve emotional energy.
2) Develop a Community of Authentic Relationships
Find like-minded people who can encourage you and whom you can encourage.
On my recovery journey I needed places where I could be real and accepted…Guilt and shame prompted my husband and me to hide and isolate…we finally swallowed our pride and trudged into an Al-Anon meeting….to our surprise, we felt safe and understood, able to share our inner struggles.
Support groups like Al-Anon turned out to be one of the healthiest things I participated in to become resilient because they helped me process my feelings in the context of community instead of trying to cope alone. We really do need each other more than we know.
3) Enlist Steady Spiritual Support
Fellowship with my church family, my small group, and Bible study groups was crucial. Welcoming a sponsor and counselors into my life helped too. God met me, ministered to me, and strengthened me through His people. Not in isolation, but in the body of Christ, the church…I could be loved, listened to, prayed for, and upheld in amazing ways…Permitting them on my journey has made it possible for God to minister to me through them. How much I would have missed had I not opened my heart to them.
4) Nurture Your Personal Faith in God
…Somehow I found the strength to keep picking up my Bible almost every day…Some days a paragraph or one sentence was all I could manage. But I kept at it…I believed it was the main way my heavenly Father would refresh my exhausted soul.
Strengthening my faith included cultivating a strong prayer life…Developing resilience requires a lot of trust in God. By drawing closer to our Good Shepherd, tapping into His strength, we can discover the ability to endure. We can overcome exhaustion: “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” (Prov. 24:16).
…By choosing to stay close to Him, strengthening and nurturing our faith, we can handle any crisis…
5) Improve Your Physical Health
I started a health plan that included eating better, drinking plenty of water, getting adequate rest, and giving attention to other medical needs. Appointments were scheduled with doctors, counselors, or clergy as needed. Regular exercise released endorphins and naturally improved my sense of well-being. Even a fifteen-minute walk was rejuvenating. This also helped me process my grief. In short, I gave myself permission to make myover-all health a priority.
6) Find Your True Identity
I grew confident of who I am as a follower of Christ (a loved and cared-for child of God), who I belong to (my heavenly Father), about my eternal destiny (with Him forever in heaven), and about my life having purpose.
Exposing myself to sound biblical teaching in church, in small groups Bible studies, and through my own reading of the Scriptures developed a strong belief…During these painful years I repeatedly read a list of statements I keep tucked away in my Bible…Two crucial ones were: 1) I am complete in Christ and have all I need in Him, and 2) I can persevere and be victorious in any trial because of God’s help and strength.
Even today I continue to remind myself of these two things. They make a huge difference during troubling times.
7) Learn to Distinguish Between Truth and Lies
How? By focusing on the Word of God and being familiar with what it says.
By avoiding negative, critical thinking that said God was indifferent or absent in my struggles.
By knowing myself well enough to be aware of my limits, not kidding myself that I was superhuman.
By realizing I couldn’t do everything…and by enforcing wise, healthy boundaries (no more enabling or over-helping).
By releasing the illusion that I had or needed control of Renee’ or her circumstances.
By accepting I wasn’t perfect and that’s okay.
These things helped me detach from the trauma at hand and trust God with the outcome.
I discovered I could care for my daughter without taking care of her.
8) Make Time for Fun
I cultivated hobbies and tried new things. I gave myself permission to laugh again. It’s all right. I know this idea sounds counterintuitive. Fun? Laughter? Delight? …
My friend, you need them. You need to balance hardship with lightheartedness. And just a little goes a long way. To use a well-worn cliche’, “Just do it!”
A Bible verse and Encouraging Thoughts
Scripture says, “In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them” (Is. 63:9)
Dear exhausted parent, your heavenly Father hurts with you.
He is present in your pain.
He loves you with an eternal, unfailing love.
When you reach out to Him, He’ll send help from His very presence to lift you up and carry you.
He’ll make you strong so you can rebound from every trial.
Exhaustion. What’s the remedy? Resilience.
You can be resilient.
Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief by Pauline G. Boss
You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado
The Other Side of Sadness by Bonnanno