Sometimes it hurts. Deeply. I'm not referring to your everyday, run-of-the-mill disappointment, I'm talking about that heart wrenching, sick-to-your-stomach, earth-shattering kind of distress that makes it hard to swallow and difficult to breath. The kind of loss that makes you question everything you thought you were sure of. The kind that forever alters the way you look at things. Whether it's the death of a loved one, the loss of a relationship or an unexpected crisis, no one is immune to tragedy. Pain, loss and rejection are an inescapable part of the human experience. The upside is that it is entirely possible to convert that negative energy into positive fuel to propel you further than you would have gone without it. With a bit of faith, time and strategic management, you can flip that situation in your favor.
Here are 13 steps to turn your tragedy into triumph:
1. Avoid what's avoidable.
Some adversity is inevitable, but a lot of it is entirely possible to avoid. Life will come with it's own bag of tricks, so there is no need to go chasing the drama. If something is wrong for you, there are usually signs. Trust your gut. Be honest with yourself in every decision you make. No matter how fun or harmless it may seem, that uneasy, not-quite-right feeling is a clear indication to walk away.
2. Let it burn.
3. Accept it.
It happened. You didn't want it to happen. You did all you could to prevent it from happening, but despite your best efforts, here you are. It's done and there's nothing you can do to change that.
4. Watch your vices.
When you're in pain, you just want instant relief. The tempting thing to do is to medicate, intoxicate and numb it as quickly as possible. Everyone has their quick fixes, those knee-jerk, maybe not-so-healthy tendencies that distract us from our problems. What's yours? Is it shopping, smoking, gossip, sex? Vices provide a temporary high but in the end they're not a solution to your problem, they're just another problem.
5. Do your work.
Grief is a painful process and overcoming it requires hard work, time and faith, but it's worth the investment. Journal, pray or seek counseling. Do whatever you have to do to work through it. This is the first step in transforming your pain into power.
6. Access the damage.
Alright, time to pull up your sleeves and asses the damage. This is the part where you start to think about the loss in practical terms. What is the impact? What's changed? What needs to be restructured in order to move forward?
7. Root out the lesson.
What can you learn from all this? Are there any proactive measures you can take to prevent this from happening again? If you are faced with this situation a second time, how will you respond? Don't leave here without gaining some wisdom and insight.
8. Take responsibility.
Time to get real honest with yourself. What part, if any, did you play in creating situation? Deflecting blame will only rob you of this golden opportunity to evolve. You don't have to waste time beating yourself and feeling guilty over it, but accepting responsibility for your actions puts you in control and allows you to face and correct yourself so you're not repeating the same destructive patterns over and over again.
9. Get centered.
10. What might happen next?
Now, with a clear head, try to think through what might happen next. Calamity doesn't always come at you all at once. Sometimes it happens in phases. If you break up with your partner, for instance, dissolving the relationship is just the first of many issues you'll need to face, especially if kids are involved. How are we going to manage custody? What about finances? Who's going to live where? There's a lot to consider. Create a checklist and before you make a move, think about how each decision effects the next.
11. Determine your desired outcome.
Are you going to be a victim or a survivor? You get to choose. Whatever you're going through is only temporary. Life will go on, and the work you put in right now will determine how this plays into the big picture. Think about how you want your life to look a year from now. Five years? Long term?
12. Make a plan.
Once you determine your end game, it's time to sit down and create a plan to get you from here to there. Whether it's a spreadsheet, a vision board or a journal, set a strategy for how you're going to move forward. Give yourself goals and deadlines. Start taking action.
13. Use it.
You made it! As a result of your experience, you are now more cultivated, more interesting, more mature than you were before. How are you going to use it? Are you going to hoard that hard earned wisdom or will you share it with others who are struggling to get through what you've already overcome? Why not pay it forward?
These steps are not necessarily sequential but if you apply them at your own pace and keep moving forward, you will get through this. Keep the lessons, use the pain, put forth some effort, and you're sure to emerge on the other side.