Soldier 1: “You’re hit, you’re bleeding man.”
Soldier 2: “I ain’t got time to bleed.”
This short, yet intense excerpt from the movie Predator provides an important insight into conquering fear. While challenges are sure to present in life, the principle here is that you can’t allow tragedy to stop you from completing your mission. Few business leaders have had to deal with more life-altering tragedy than Linda Losey, including the horrific separate deaths of her two young sons. Yet, those heart-wrenching circumstances have not stopped her from achieving both professional and personal life goals.
How do you overcome devastating events and other personal challenges? How do you survive life’s most tragic situations to emerge stronger, healthier and perhaps even happier in the wake of catastrophic circumstances? How do you exist through the long, endless nights of your seemingly endless anguish to rise to see a brighter day and actually enjoy life once again? When do the persistent internal inquisitions, “Why now? Why me?”
Such are the questions that Linda, now Founder and COO of Bloomery Plantation Distillery, has asked herself time and time again. It’s resulted in the kind of wisdom that can only be gained by struggling through extreme adversity (multiple times in Linda’s case) and coming out on the other side with a healthy mindset and an inner well of strength, resolve and tenacity needed to not just survive, but thrive.
Below, Linda provides a few practical, top-line insights to help individuals better deal with unexpected adversity and even tragedy, and find astonishing strength to overcome:
- Discover hope in a sea of hopelessness. To quote Helen Keller, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.” There is one certain truth: you cannot realize happiness if you are hopeless. Search for a ray of hope, any sliver, and grip it fiercely. Have a friend drive you to the ASPCA and hold a kitten or a puppy and force yourself to smile. Even in your darkest moments you will appreciate the innocence found in the eyes of those precious pets.
- Believe in yourself that you can move through the darkness. Belief is inextricably linked to hope; you must believe that there is a future beyond the staggering anguish you feel at the moment. There are a series of causes and effects when you choose hope over despair, and belief over doubt. Did you get up out of bed, if only to go to the bathroom? Those steps, even those simple survival steps, help to give you the building blocks to begin the walk out of the darkness. Walk everyday, if only to the bathroom. Soon you’ll find yourself moving beyond the boundaries of known comfort.
- Find the passion to live again. Decide to do something, anything, every single day. Those little somethings add up, one by one, helping you to build your will and find the passion to live again. How do you express yourself? Pick up a pen, a paintbrush, a cookbook, a guitar, whatever it is that has always helped you to express what wells up inside. Don’t feel like it? Then just write your name and the date on a sheet of paper, and put it away. But do it everyday. Or paint a patch of red today and wash out the paintbrush. Do the same the next day and the next. Pick up your guitar and pack it away. And do it again and again. Each day you’ll take a step further until you’re moved to express the wealth of pain desperate to seep out.
- Trust – yes, trust – the different stages of grief. It’s unwise – even unrealistic – to assume that once on the road to recovery, grief will never rear its ugly head again. The only way to recover from grief is to trust it. Trust its wisdom, its healing power, even its pain, rather than avoid it altogether. The surest way to overcome grief is to push through it, every painstaking step of it, and you can only do that by trusting it as real, powerful and present – then allowing yourself to move on from it. Give yourself permission to laugh, as hard as that may be, as you’ll have plenty of time and opportunity to shed tears. And, let go of the guilt the first time you have a belly laugh. Understand it lets the blood flow to heal your aching spirit.
- Be your own toughest competitor. Overcoming grief is a marathon, not a sprint. Those who are there at the beginning–family, friends, counselors, pastors, preachers, priests–can often fall away as the journey progresses and other needs arise. But there you are, suffering every day just the same–with or without them. You must challenge yourself to persevere even when the dust settles, when the support wanes and you are there, alone, in your darkest hours, struggling merely to survive. Get in the car and drive to the mall and eat an ice cream while you observe the world going on without your engagement. It’s tough acclimating to a world that has changed. Give yourself time to observe and get back into it. But do it in the solitude of a crowd.
- Tap into your 3 C’s: Compassion, Commitment and Courage. Compassion: In an effort to heal, don’t close yourself off from others. Instead, get your head out of your sorrow and reach out and help someone else in need. Commitment: Grief can last months, years, even decades. The variable in how long your grief might last is often in how committed you are to your own recovery. It’s not easy. Stay the course. And be prepared for it to well up again and again, but know you can make it through to the other side. Courage: This isn’t for the faint of heart. Whatever your courage looks like, climbing mountains or simply getting out of bed in the morning, embrace it and build upon it until you can look your grief in the eye and shout it down. The 3 C’s ensure that you have the tools you need to overcome your grief on your own personal timeline, and according to your own unique personality. There is no one size fits all. Do it on your own terms, but just do it. Do something that fulfills at least one of the three C’s every day.
- Discover the gift of perseverance. Celebrate your steadfast will to overcome the difficult path to brighter days by unwrapping the greatest gift in your arsenal of survival skills: perseverance. Perseverance allows you to stay the course through difficult times. Dig deep. You have the tenacity, the perseverance, to push through the challenge, to break through the pain, to survive, and maybe even to thrive. Just one day, when you’re aching and not wanting to get up and out of bed that morning, get up. Set a goal of accomplishing one small, tiny thing. Then do it. Then climb back into bed. You’ve just given yourself the gift of perseverance and the permission to grieve on your own terms.
- Understand that fear means you’re alive. To deny it is to deny the very reality of life, and the prize of overcoming fear is to live again. What are you afraid of? Face your fear. Look it in the eye and just do it. What do you have to lose? You’ve already lost something so near and dear to your heart that has sent you into this despair. Take the reins and plunge into it. Then feel it. Feel that you’re alive. It may suck, but at least you’ll feel.
“I used to think that life was getting past the obstacle, just beyond the obstacle, to get to the other side,” Linda says. “I just needed to get there in order to live again. But you know what? Life is not on the other side of the challenge. Life is the challenge. The challenge is the journey. Getting to the other side is just the pit stop, where you can re-energize before the next hurdle is in front of you. With each and every loss, every challenge, every obstacle, it empowers me to know that I’m gaining the courage and the wisdom to live life beyond what it was and used to be.”
Triumphing over grief, challenge and adversity is never easy, but can be surprisingly simple. All you have to do is have faith, faith in yourself and beyond, and the courage to take the next step.