About a month after my two-year old son was murdered I found myself in a bookstore looking at the child loss books. I remember not connecting with any of them. Some were dark tales of parents that lost children and I was not ready for those stories. After all, I was already living that nightmare, I didn’t need to hear about theirs. Then there were the self-help grief books. I found those to be the worst. I remember looking at one that divided child loss into categories. When I went to sudden loss/murder it basically told me I should be in a psych ward. There was little to no comfort in those pages. Not one part of me felt that my life was over or that I would now be forced to live the rest of my life in despair and grief. It was dark and I was broken but I was not about to let a stranger tell me how I was feeling or what my future held based only on my circumstance.
I wanted someone who had been through a similar trauma to tell me I would be happy again. But there was nobody out there telling me this. I finally found a few sites like Second Firsts that offered hope without trying to sugar coat or ignore the circumstances. They offered a plan to take things day-by-day, be proactive, and do the things I loved. Eventually by doing the things I loved, I found clarity and purpose. By focusing on what matters and my passions I am finding happiness again.
I know this seems like odd advice from a mother whose child was attacked and killed but you can’t prepare for tragedy by pushing away joy or experiences, because it makes you slightly uncomfortable, or because there’s a chance something bad might happen.
And what happens at the end of your life when you look back and realize you never showed up? Or tragedy does strike and everything you thought was well protected and planned out is now gone. Well I can tell you there are plenty of drugs, therapists, and grief books waiting just for you. And it might be a long road back. From my experience the key to resilience is putting yourself out there and dealing with setbacks and change way before the really bad things happen.
“Highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change. Most important, they expect to bounce back and feel confident that they will. They have a knack for creating good luck out of circumstances that many others see as bad luck.”~Berrett-Koehler, 2005
By living with passion and purpose (and the right amount of stress) we had built up our resilience. While tragedy wasn’t something we were planning on or preparing for we were ready for it in many ways. And it wasn’t because we knew about grief and tragedy or followed a certain belief system. We were ‘ready’ because we knew how to love each other, find joy, have courage and feel a connection to something greater.
Is it easy? No.
Are we over it? Never.
Are we still learning and growing? Yes.
But we’ve started a new path.
It’s only been a year since my son was killed. And in this year our new path has included a major job loss, starting a non-profit, and expecting a new baby in May. None of that would have been possible to withstand without resilience and gradually focusing on what matters after tragedy.
Through my experiences, stories, and research I am confident that there are simple ways you can live a full and authentic life or build on the one you have. And by living a full and authentic life you are building your resilience for the hard times yet to come. It’s not about preparing for the worst, it’s about living to the fullest so that you have no regrets. That includes: exercise, mindfulness, adventure, simplicity, gratitude, spirituality and vulnerability.
Image courtesy of Kelsi Barr.
Jen Charrette is the creator of Velo Mom and is focusing on new adventures after 15 years in the corporate world. She lives under the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, with her husband, son, and a baby on the way. She is an avid road cyclist and mountain biker but dabbles in surfing, skiing and hiking. Jen and her husband started the non-profit the Axel Project to honor their son Axel who was killed in 2013. You can learn more about Jen on her blog or about the Axel Project. You can also connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.
I’m so excited to debut the Life Starter’s Blog Series. I have had the greatest honor and fortune of hearing your powerful stories of personal transformation and I wanted to share them all. Because I know that together we can help support, inspire and lift one another. Every Tuesday, we will proudly feature your stories. If you’d like to submit a post, please go here for guidelines and more info. Happy reading!