Once a upon a time, there was a couple who learned you can do hard things. Let’s call them Lyle and Fran.
They were sailing along with the regular little bumps of early years of marriage and parenting. And then they had a hard year.
They used all their savings to pay off an underwater mortgage, their daughter showed developmental delays, Fran’s dad’s had a stroke, and then Lyle got a lay-off notice.
The following years were just as hard: They moved out of state for a new job for Lyle. The job wasn’t what Lyle had expected. Lyle’s mom’s cancer returned.
Lyle was recruited to an awesome new job, but his mom died right before the birth of their second child.
The next year was even harder. Their daughter got an autism diagnosis. Then Fran got postpartum depression followed by an autoimmune disease diagnosis. They had financial stress from the medical bills.
Then Fran’s dad died.
This is part of Kyle’s and my story and discovery about hard things.
Reader, you can do hard things, too. Here’s what I recommend to make it through the hard things.
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Recognize You Are Strong
Look at your life, friends. I’m certain you will see you’ve already had some similar hard years. And yet, here you are still standing.
Maybe you’ve also survived the death of a parent. Maybe you’ve gone through messy break-ups or an ugly divorce. Maybe you survived a horrible boss, quit an awful job, left bad roommates.
Name those challenges. Give yourself credit. Those battle wounds are also the source of your current inner strengthen.
Now that you have another hard thing, recognize your strength even in the moments of weakness. You’ve done some hard things, and you can face more.
You have history with hard things, and you’re still here victorious.
Feel Your Hard Feelings
One the hardest parts of dealing with hard things is when you look for support as you feel your feelings and can’t find it. Here’s what I recommend:
- Ignore those who minimize
You will encounter people who will want to minimize your hard thing. They’ll say things like “Don’t forget Sally has it harder.” Let’s saying you’re having a hard time raising your special needs child, they’ll remind you about someone who lost a child.
They might tell you just to think positive. You might be struggling with your marriage and they’ll tell you to just focus on the good things.
They might give you a tough love pep talk (hello oxymoron!). Maybe you’re really struggling financially and they tell you to get to work finding more incoming.
Many of these people are trying to make you feel better, but really they aren’t digging into their empathy. Instead of tapping into their ability to carry your hard thing with you, they are trying to separate themselves from pain.
And really, it’s not 100% their fault. We live in a culture that denies pain and pathologizes feelings. Empathy is not the default emotion of our culture. Very few people have emotional intelligence to jump into your hard thing hole with you.
You can ignore them for a while.
- Allow the Negative Feelings
Give yourself permission to feel all the negative feelings you need: anger, resentment, frustration, pain, sadness, guilt. Feel them, and just breathe.
Again, our culture defines these hard feelings as bad or even immoral, when really they are just feelings. Adding extra shame onto any feeling is a recipe for more pain. Remove blame and shame and just allow space for the negative feelings.
- Silence the should
Please don’t listen to the voices telling you about whether you should or shouldn’t feel however you are feeling. Tell those people (also masquerading as those who minimize) to take a hike.
Listen carefully for your own shoulds. It’s really just a voice of blame and shame so let’s just remove blame from your hard thing for now.
The should is really trying to control you. Tell the shoulds goodbye each time your hear it and just trust yourself.
So ignore the folks who can’t empathize, allow for negative feelings and ditch the shoulds. You are strong enough to feel these hard things.
Make Choices about Your Hard Things
I love this coloring sheet (affiliate link) from Gretchen Rubin. We can’t always choose our circumstances, but we can choose the bigger life.
You’ve recognized you are strong. You’re feeling your hard feelings. And yet your hard thing persists.
You’ve been dealt a crappy lot. There is no doubt about it.
Maybe you’ve been fired, or you hate your job. Maybe you have to leave a bad marriage, or you’re still single. Maybe your children are struggling, or you’re dealing with infertility.
Maybe your friends are gossiping about you, or maybe you can’t make friends. Maybe you’ve lost a parent, or maybe your parents won’t speak to you.
These are hard, bad things. You might not be able to change them, but you can still make a choice.
So after you’ve recognized you are strong and you have felt your feelings, look for an opportunity when you can start making choices to move forward.
I’m all about the realistic, practical stuff. Look to make small choices that give you the sense of control in your life.
Make a 19 for 2019 list. Start taking a five-minute walk at lunch. Quit Facebook. Make a choice that gives you power, commit to the choice daily, and watch it snowball.
Listen for the little voice that says it’s time. It is time to make some choices to make your hard thing more manageable or to move on.
Hope for Better Days after Hard Things
I wear this disc necklace at least twice a week and get comments on it all the time. I’m looking for miracles for my children, in my marriage, and in my own life.
As a Christian, I believe in the Resurrection. There is a life after death. There are happy things after hard things
For my non-Christian readers, look around you. After a cold dark winter, spring is coming. The days are gradually getting longer, the flower buds are starting to bloom. There is always the promise of dawn.
There is hope for a Better Day. And that is what this blog is born from.
The challenge is the opportunity. So my hope for you is this challenge can become an opportunity for you, too.
I know you are a good person. There was nothing defective about you before this hard thing so you didn’t need it to make yourself a better person.
And yet hope persists. This hard thing, this struggle, will give you a chance for hope.
You Can Do Hard Things printable
Grab this printable coloring sheet I made for you. Post it as your mantra that you can do hard things.
Recognize your a stronger than you believe. Feel those tough feelings. Make some choices to give yourself a chance to move forward. And hope for Better Days.