There’s an old saying: “That which does not kill you makes you stronger. ” That phrase makes the most sense to me as I reflect on one period I call my private year from hell.
In the span of a lifetime, one year can be rather unmemorable. Decades pass and age dims recollection except for the most standout moments. This particular year was a standout year, for all the wrong reasons. It no doubt will shape the rest of my life; it already has. So much learning packed into this one circle ’round the sun. One of my neighbors, after I was finally able to verbalize what was going on in my life told me, “I don’t know how you haven’t had a nervous breakdown by now.” I wondered that myself. Let me tell you about that year:
My son called from school saying he thought he couldn’t continue. His dad and I told him to stick it out a little while longer. He tried, but eventually came home. It had been his dream to go to this particular school since early high school. Now it seemed he would have to give up on his dream. His decision was heartbreaking for all of us.
My mother died. She was 98 and had told me multiple times that she didn’t know why she was still here, that she really wanted to join my father, who passed years before. At his deathbed, Mom said with conviction that she would be joining him shortly. She meant a few months. Well, she finally got her wish… ten years later. Those years were rough on both of us. She was angry and frustrated. I was exhausted trying to make her as happy as possible. In the wake of her passing, my family consoled me that I had done all I could for her, every day, in the decade since my father died. But I wondered as many loved ones do, was I patient and present enough to truly be with her in her final days? The answer haunts me.
My husband lost his job. I have no doubt the stress he was under caused health issues to arise over the summer that got progressively worse, so that in…
He was diagnosed with Lymphoma. We spent the rest of the year traveling cross-state to his chosen hospital for chemo, radiation, and to remove a life-threatening blood clot.
So, I was asked, how did I remain standing in this year from hell?
There is a special kind of grace your soul gives you in your times of deepest despair. And, I do not believe I struggled through this on my own.
Our connection to that which is beyond our understanding becomes clear in these times.
Something told me to go within. Give meditation a better try. I always thought I was a failure at meditation because my brain just wouldn’t shut off. Turns out hardly anybody’s does.
I felt a persistence to quiet myself, read this, do that. I believe I was gently nudged, found just the right articles, took the right meditation classes. Earlier I had dismissed them as not working for me, but when I brought them back in these circumstances, it was a perfect fit. It was almost as if I had taken those classes on breathing and mindfulness meditation when I could fit them into my schedule, but they were meant for another time. Hmmm. Do you believe in coincidence or serendipity?
Billy Graham said, “Suffering in life can uncover untold depths of character and unknown strength for service.” In embracing the struggle to help my family through hard times I learned how to help others through their difficulties as well. I strengthened, and at the same time softened, and was somehow able to add to my abilities to serve others. Away from home and business duties, waiting for surgeries and chemo, I could concentrate on my nutrition studies. It was the perfect time to focus on something positive, nutrition rather than illness, and I immersed myself in the classwork.
Now, my husband is in remission and has landed a job with a far better, more prestigious company with better compensation than the one he left. He has also learned to eat more nutritiously and is on his way to creating a healthier body. My son decided to go back to school, is in his last year and is receiving honors and awards for his work. Most of life is actually better than when the trauma began, except for the loss of my Mom. But, haven’t we heard that before? It sometimes takes upheaval to improve circumstances?
The strain of that year is over, but the lessons linger, gifts that will sustain me in future years. They can sustain you, too:
- I am unapologetic for thinking that some good can rise from hardship. I know better now. It can.
- I learned how strong I am, that we all have inner resources we don’t know we have until trouble comes.
- I now understand, on some sort of transcendent level, that we don’t face any of it alone. My connection with God/Creator/Source/Infinite Being helped sustain me.
- I learned to be thankful (yes, thankful!) for the troubles that helped fashion me into a person who can help others through their trials.
- I can now let go of the painful memories, and forgive myself for not finding more time in an overwhelming season of life.
- Finally, I learned life is cyclical, and the good will come to replace the bad, but that faith and positive expectation can play a large role in turning events around.
So, as bizarre as it might seem, I have gratitude for the experience of that singular year. A better person has emerged. This is truly Amazing Grace, to receive gifts of comfort and knowledge from hardship and heartbreak.
Have you had any extra-stressful time in your life when you were at least able to reflect and find something positive, some life lessons you were able to appreciate? Tell me below. I’d love some company, even if you don’t want to tell me the details. Hope to hear from you.