The first line from one of my favorite books reads, “Life is difficult!” But when life is difficult, how do we cope and take care of ourselves while dealing with the problems?
Life has certainly presented some challenges for my family and me this past year. Our oldest son and his wife were expecting their first child—our first grandchild—and it was an exciting time for all of us. But a few weeks before her arrival, my husband missed eight weeks of work due to an injury. His rehabilitation was slow and painful.
Shortly after our granddaughter’s birth, she was taken by ambulance to a neonatal intensive care unit for surgery. Hayden had cystic fibrosis. We were stunned. None of us knew what this diagnosis meant or how it would impact Hayden’s life.
As parents, we had to watch our children comfort their beautiful new baby and learn everything they could about her disease. It was difficult. We experienced periods of extreme exhaustion accompanied by sadness and apprehension. At the same time, my mother-in-law’s health was deteriorating rapidly.
So, How Does One Cope?
It’s so easy to live in the future, but that is not always a helpful strategy. None of us knows what tomorrow may bring, so we must plan for the future as best we can while still living for today.
Hayden’s disease has been a challenge, but her parents have become educated about her condition and find comfort in knowing that great strides are being made in the research and treatment of cystic fibrosis.
I cannot count the value of the network of friends who came to the hospital to sit with me and my family. They gave tremendous physical, emotional, and spiritual support. I came to know that I could call on any one of several friends and they would be there with whatever I needed.
In the face of difficulty, rearranging priorities is critical. I recommend that you ask yourself, “Is this a need or a want?” The fact that you’ve always done things a certain way is no reason to continue if that behavior is creating more stress in your life.
Practice saying no and asking for help. Sometimes asking for help is perceived as weakness when it is nothing more than our own pride getting in the way. I asked good friends to sit with me at the hospital when my husband couldn’t be there. I said yes to friends who offered to bring meals. I listened to a co-worker who suggested I take some time off. It’s not a sign of weakness to pare down your life and find time for stillness and healing.
Prior to these events in our lives, my husband and I were very active and social. Since this experience, we’ve seen the value of quiet time. We have some new “healing” habits that feel good to both of us. Sometimes our healing is nothing more than coming home from work, putting on our sweats, building a fire, watching a movie, and eating carry out.
When life is too difficult, another step may also be necessary. If you find that you are feeling hopeless, sleep has become difficult, or your sadness will not go away, you may need professional help. An evaluation for medication or counseling may make the difference.
The outcome of my own “life is difficult” saga demonstrates why we should not unduly live in or fret about the future. My husband’s surgery and physical therapy were successful and he is back at work as before. Our granddaughter continues to amaze and inspire us with her tenacity and spirit.
Some of the changes we made in our lives during that difficult time were beneficial and have become permanent. We still treasure our new-found routines of healing. Even though that period in our lives was difficult, we emerged on the other side having benefited from the experience.
Coping Strategies for Difficult Times
- Live in the present.
- Rely on friends and family for emotional and spiritual support.
- Rearrange priorities and be flexible.
- Set good boundaries.
- Take time off from work if possible.
- Find ways to experience personal peace and healing—make it a priority.
- Seek professional help if necessary.
Sherry Siler is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in Edmond. She works with individuals and families as well as with couples who are experiencing loss or challenges in the area of relationships. Sherry is married and the mother of two adult sons. Contact her at 405-340-4321.