Taking time to put your situation to the side and to focus on somebody else is a powerful way to get back in touch with who you are and what you can give. When you stop obsessing about your own pain and problems and instead direct your energy to helping somebody else, you will find that you also have the strength to move through your grief.
I know a woman who recently became a single mother. During this period, she decided to help an elderly woman who lived across the street in her neighborhood with grocery shopping, meals, and general organizing. Even though her whole life required major reorganization now that her husband had walked out, and she had very little free time, she found that the most calming action she could take was to help someone else.
She felt important and necessary. If she didn’t show up, this older woman would be stuck. She got back in touch with what really matters: being kind, being loving, and helping someone out during the day.
You don’t have to help a stranger. Make a list of your friends and loved ones, even your colleagues, and ask yourself: What can I do for this person that would help them? What does he or she need? Your help can be as simple as sending a card, making a phone call, mailing a clipping of an interesting magazine article, or finally taking the time to share a meal.
When her brother committed suicide, Rachel found that helping others was the best method of moving through her own pain. During the first, and hardest, day after her brother’s death, she nurtured her family in the most basic yet essential way.
“I remember the first day after his death, I focused on feeding my family. They hadn’t eaten all day, and I started feeding them. It was the only thing I knew how to do,” she says. “Being there for others has always helped me get out of my own way.”
To move through change, it’s essential to bust through the illusion that you are the only one experiencing pain or suffering. It is the gift of perspective. Yes, your job, health, or finances may be changing, but you also have a responsibility to show up in the world for your friends, family, and community. Be bigger than just your change. Someone else needs you.
I love this Chinese parable about helping others:
If you want happiness for an hour–take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day–go fishing.
If you want happiness for a month–get married.
If you want happiness for a year–inherit money.
If you want happiness for a lifetime–help others.
Adapted from The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Any Change by Ariane de Bonvoisin