Surviving and Thriving in 2021: A Lesson from Loss
For years, people have complimented me for being “so strong” and “surviving” the deaths of both of my children in a dreadful car accident in 1991. My son was four, my daughter just one and a half. Yes, it was by far the worst thing that ever happened to me. Yes, I miss them every day. My little boy would have been 34 this week, so their deaths are especially top of mind.
At first, I didn’t understand what people meant when they said “surviving” their deaths. It was really just the fact that the paramedics got there quickly, and the skills of all the surgeons, doctors, physical therapists, nurses and countless others who pieced my body back together over the next few years. That is how I literally survived.
During Covid-19 though, I have been watching people. Not from a place of judgment, but from empathy. I see that there are those who are mired in extreme pessimism, and many whose circumstances seem to warrant it…and those who eke out slivers of sunshine wherever they can be found.
That is how I got through Jeremy and Amelia dying, too: by eventually developing the skill to just get through the next 10 minutes without crying or wishing I was also dead. After a lot of time and practice, I could go for an hour or two without weeping. After years, I worked up to a month or so. And now, almost 30 years later, I can go several months without the grief-stricken, pit-of-your-stomach sucker punch sadness that hits at the most unexpected times.
It is not really a matter of “surviving,” like an act of heroism or courage. It is something else: just putting one foot in front of the other, slowly, sometimes painfully, slogging through this moment and hoping that a future moment will be better. And often, it is.
Today, right now as you read this, if you are running from, hiding from, being eaten up by something dreadful…if it is catching up to you, sucking you under, causing your heart or mind to feel like you are stuck in a garbage disposal going for a sickening ride, I invite you to do just this: Breathe. Take a few deep breaths and realize that nothing ever stays the same. Not the bad stuff, and not even the good stuff. Life just bundles it all up in one huge pill and expects you to swallow it.
People have gotten through bad stuff since before anyone took notes. All those cave paintings of hunts? A lot of hunters died in those encounters with aurochs and buffaloes. Other people were raised in awful families, had awful stuff happen to them, had their businesses fail or their jobs disappear – maybe permanently. Other people have been unable to pay the rent or mortgage; have worried about their kids; have been knotted up with intense worry or have wept through the early hours with utter fatigue.
And they have made it through. There is no magic to it. If they can do it, so can you. It is just a matter of pushing/coaxing/dragging yourself to the next moment while committing to the hope that when things change – and they surely will – it will be in your favor this time.
The new year is approaching. The virus is still raging, and many of us are feeling its vicious effects personally or professionally. But this is not even the first worldwide pandemic. We will get through this, and out the other side. In the future, good things will happen for you again, for all of us. There is no way to predict when or what. The only thing we each must do to survive the wave that is currently crashing over our heads is this: Keep swimming. Just that. Focus on that. Because it will get better. It always does.
Wendy Keller is a literary agent, content marketing consultant, workshop leader and presenter. She founded Keller Media, Inc. in 1989. Wendy is the author of many books, including The Ultimate Guide to Platform Building. www.KellerMedia.com www.WendyKeller.com www.BookProposalWorkshop.com