In A Shot Of Optimism, Uncategorized, What's Holding You Back?

The job you loved goes away.  The relationship you treasured ends. The money, the status, the stuff evaporates.

If you are old enough to read this, you have experienced a loss, an ending, some kind of terrible tragedy…

When that happens some people wallow in the pain. They stay attracted to it.  As a child, I remember having a toothache.  There was something weirdly satisfying about poking the tooth.  It hurt and it felt good at the same time.  That combination of pain and satisfaction can be addictive, especially if it’s combined with self-righteousness.  It’s tempting to allow the loss to become the milestone that defines who we are to ourselves and to the world.   But that temptation can lead us down a black hole.

On a trip to California, Umberto and I reconnected with some old friends, Jack and Linda. When their daughter was a young adult, she had developed a terminal disease and passed away at an early age.  As a mother, I couldn’t imagine ever recovering from that kind of loss.  How could you not rage against the injustice, the randomness, the seeming senselessness?   I didn’t think I would ever be able to move past such a loss.

So I was surprised when Jack and Linda told us they had written a book about the gift of their daughter’s illness and death.  Gifts?  How could there possibly be any gifts?  They went on to explain the deeper friendships they developed, the closeness of their family and the many discoveries that had come from their terrible tragedy.  Their words struck me.

They didn’t wallow in the pain, and they didn’t blame anyone for what happened. They took their own positive action.  It’s almost impossible to solve problems and move forward when we see ourselves as victims.  Do painful feelings ever go away?  It depends on the gravity of the loss.   But really strong and brave people feel the feelings and find a way to move on.

My house burned down sixteen years ago, and it took a while to stop defining myself as “poor Elizabeth.”  Once I had time to move past the shock and sense of loss, I invited myself to ask, “What were the ‘gifts’ of this fire?”  It turns out, there were many.

Whatever is happening right now in your life (and we all experience tragedy and crisis on a more than regular basis!), give yourself the time to ask these three questions:

  1. Is there a piece of responsibility I can claim? (this will bring you a sense of power.)
  2. Can I give up blaming myself or others? (this will bring you freedom.)
  3. Can I find the “gifts” this loss has brought me? (this will bring back a sense of gratitude.)

In the comment section below, tell us about your crisis and let us know what gifts it brought you. Can’t wait to hear!  Until next Tuesday.



Showing 6 comments
  • Bil

    A priest once told me when something bad happens often something good comes from it as well… hard to see sometimes. Good stuff Elizabeth; I enjoy reading your blog.

    • elizabeth

      It is hard to see sometime. One of the things I got from my fire was a re done house with a cool floor plan and new wardrobe!


  • Helen Gaye Brewster

    My “crisis,” so to speak, is being a person with anxiety and depression. I only recently learned to look for the gifts in this, and have found many. I’m now able to be grateful to have anxiety. Thanks, Elizabeth, for a great post!

    • elizabeth

      Your comment will give hope to many. Thanks for letting me know.


  • Scott

    After 17 years in a distinguished and rewarding sales position, I was recently downsized from a Fortune 500 company in the Entertainment industry. As well, the impact of the internet on the industry is such that I know that future opportunities will be rare and short lived. Therefore my 28 year career has ended and I am on to finding my new career.
    The gift this loss has brought me is recognition that I was not happy in my previous position working 70+ hour weeks doing meaningless tasks. I was clinging on out of pride for the image the company/industry provided and for fear of the unknown; can we live on less, could I be valued anywhere else?
    The career transition is in its infancy and I have not shrugged the questions but I am at a place now where I am thankful for the career I had. I have released the feelings of resentment for being downsized and am working on redefining myself in light of the new reality. If I was valued before, surely I can be valued now and in the future. After all, I am now given the opportunity to transcend the trap of my previous job but instead pursue what I believe will give me happiness and satisfaction. So here I go.

    • elizabeth

      Thank you Scott for sharing your story. It is inspiring. Congratulations on re-framing what has happened. You are valuable and will no doubt find a new place to add value.

      Best wishes and YIPPEE!

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