Similar to many people reading this, I know what it feels like to watch my world shatter within a matter of minutes. I know what it’s like to feel beside myself, utterly incredulous at how everything can change so quickly, and reeling at the shock of it all. I remember the feeling that I wished I could turn back time because nothing could be worse than the present moment.
When I was only 24 years old I walked into the living room where I found my mother who had passed away on the living room couch. I remember screaming her name hoping she would wake up. I yelled, “Mom, Mom, Mom”, but nothing, she would not move. I called 9-1-1 and within a matter of minutes police officers, emergency personnel and fire trucks lined up outside the house.
To date, nothing has affected me more deeply than that night and the suddenness of my loss. My world has never been the same and I cannot say I’ve ever even come close to feeling as weak or as shattered as I did on that chilly March evening. No one person has been capable of bringing me to the same low, and no circumstance since has been as profound. Losing my mother is my Illness: it is the greatest loss I have ever known, but it has also shown me the power of my wherewithal.
Project Elinor is based on the principle that we all suffer and that it is our losses that make us human and humble. Because difficult experiences can weave in and out of our lives forever, it’s not a matter of trying to avoid our sorrows; we just need to get better at how we recover from them. We must learn to see our Illnesses– or most negative life experiences – as events ‘outside’ of our bodies and thus, prevent them from controlling our lives.
When we cope with loss we often blur the distinction between the mind and the body, and allow our thoughts to hinder our health and happiness. Though the recovery process takes time (and that time is determined by you), we must be careful not to simmer in negative thinking. When we ruminate within our Illnesses, we prevent the healing process from taking place, and we risk the experience taking a toll on our overall health.
Though Project Elinor describes 10-steps for recovery, learning how to perceive things is paramount in the healing process. It’s the notion that life does not happen “to” us, but rather, “around” us or “through” us. When we learn how to live life – as opposed to being victimized by it, we’ve taken a giant leap in recovery process. Suddenly we go from being afraid of what life could possibly bring, to appreciating what we can bring into our own lives. We own our lives, as opposed to our lives and our experiences owning us.
Each of us tends to see the world as it is, but in reality we see the world as we think it should be. Thus, coping with loss can be especially difficult because our mind (or perception) is telling us that life was not supposed to unfold as it did. Somehow we were supposed to be exempt. When we learn the power we have over our thoughts, and thus perceptions, learning to cope with losing those closest to us can become bearable, and seeing life in a positive outlook can become possible.
Though losing those closest to us is a difficult and often traumatic experience, learning the power that each of us has over our own thoughts and perceptions will make ‘happy living’ an obtainable goal for anyone trying to achieve it. Many of us have experienced loss in profound ways; however, learning to take the experience and actually grow from it is a possibility that anyone with strength and courage can achieve.
When do you know you have overcome your Illness, or healed from the loss of a loved one?
You have overcome your Illness when you perceive the loss as less powerful than your mind, and an integral part in the life you were supposed to live.