Surviving Loss and Life’s Challenges: Just Keep Breathing

He had given up on killing himself yet he had lost all hope of ever being found. The only thing he had left was this uncontrollable innate will to survive. Days turned into months and months, years, as he detached more and more from civilized thinking and took on the persistent wildness of his surroundings. Until one day, quite unexpectedly, the tide brought him a sail.

?Who knows what the tide will bring in? was Chuck Noland?s final conclusion upon facing the reality that he had lost Kelly, the woman whose face had given him the strength to survive being marooned on an island for four years. In the movie, CAST AWAY, he processes his intensely painful loss with his friend, Stan, recounting ?I just breathed in and out; until one day, the tide brought me a sail?All I know is that I?ll keep breathing in and out…?

After you?ve done all you know to do, there comes a point where you surrender. You have to let go. You stop asking questions that enlists your mind into endless mental torture. You stop blaming other people, past and present, and you face the reality of your state.

I would imagine that those who need to control things would equate acceptance with punking out, giving up, conceding to defeat or taking the coward?s way out. Maybe it?s because humanity seems to associate power with control. However, there is a liberation to acceptance. For in order to fully accept something, you must let go of the emotional attachment that you have to it. Otherwise, what we seek to control is actually controlling us.

Says Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her publication, ON DEATH AND DYING, after moving through denial, anger, and depression, acceptance is the final stage of the grief process. Until a person exits through the portal called acceptance, he is doomed to revisit the other stages of the process and might even remain stuck at a stage. Acceptance is making peace with your loss. According to my past clinical supervisor, it?s that point where you say ?I?m sorry that this happened but I will live on.?

Iyanla Vanzant devotes a chapter to acceptance in her book, ONE DAY MY SOUL JUST OPENED UP. Iyanla writes, ?Acceptance is simply recognition. When you recognize a thing, you see it for what it is?By accepting what is, you become keenly aware of what isn?t. When you know what isn?t, you can begin to determine what you must do.?

I?ve learned that life is full of ups and downs. You may go through a time where everything just seems to fall into place. Then there are downs like being unexpectedly severed from your job, a fire burns down your apartment building or you discover a lump in your breast. These things can constrict your ability to breathe.

Our bodies are miraculously wired with a survival mechanism that enables quick reaction and speedy getaway when there’s a threat of imposing danger. This is called a fight-or-flight response. Because we live in such a high-stress, tense society, adrenaline is constantly being released from the adrenal medulla into the blood stream. However, this is suppose to be a temporary state. In fact, there are health risks if we remain in an adrenaline-induced state. Hence, learning to calm ourselves is necessary. Breathing deeply, in and out, calms the body and relaxes the mind.

Those who are successful at life are those who have made friends with life on life?s terms. They understand that the only thing they can control is themselves. Instead of seeing themselves as victims of life, they see themselves as resilient, competent and able individuals. They don?t hold tightly to things that should be surrendered. They don?t spend their lives grieving what is lost but ultimately embrace life more fully.

At the conclusion of most Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, the group members join hands and pray a portion of Reinhold Niebuhr?s SERENITY PRAYER, ?God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.?

Suzette R. Hinton, SAC-I, Certified Life and Mentor Coach, Counselor and Mother. Graduate of CANA, Inc. (http://www.CoachingInstituteofNorthAmerica.com) and Founder of Purposeful Connections (http://www.purposefulconnections.com). Suzette believes that purpose is not only a destination but it is the energy that pushes us toward its fulfillment.

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