As a young adult, many of us look forward to finding our life partner, marriage, finding success in our work, raising a family, etc. When we were growing up, this was the life path that we came to learn and follow. A life that included achievement, pursuing your dreams, happiness, independence but also family togetherness, generations helping one another, having the privilege of watching our children grow up to be healthy, happy responsible adults, the blessings of grandchildren. After all, this is the cycle of life, right? But what happens when life goes off course? When there is an unexpected and tragic death? When there is a divorce that shatters your dreams? When life does not turn out at all the way you thought it would be through no fault of your own?
It can be difficult to watch the dreams of others come true when you are dealing with a tragic or difficult event in your own life. Just as it is sometimes challenging to look at vacation photos of friends' trips when your financial situation barely allows for a dinner out, it can be depressing to attend baby shower after baby shower for friends and colleagues when you have yearned for a child too and have been trying for years. It can be very hard to watch your friends' children grow and get married when you have lost a child and you will never get to see him/her experience these life events. When everyone around you is telling stories and showing off their precious grandchildren and you have not been fortunate enough to have grandchildren, it is easy to feel left out and that life has been unkind to you once again. Even for people of strong faith, the loss of the life that we imagined is yet another loss, especially if we've already suffered the loss of a loved one thorough death, divorce, or estrangement.
So how do we learn to make lemonade when it feels like life has given us lemons? How do we learn to dance in the rain?
1) Acknowledge your loss and that it is okay to feel sad about it.
2) Seek out others who have dealt with life's blows and have found ways to create meaning in their lives.
3) Recognize that life is rarely exactly what we have imagined it will be and that there are always bumps in the road and surprises and setbacks, as well as new opportunities and growth.
5) Hold onto hope that God will surprise you, that life will bring you blessings that you didn't see coming.
6) Affirm that you may not be able to have the life you imagined, but that you can still find joy and happiness in other ways!
7) Practice daily gratitude for the people around you, for the strength that you have been given to persevere through difficulties, for all of the events that have shaped you into being the person that you are today, and for everything else that makes your world a brighter place!