What extreme loss and grief can teach us about our own resilience.

I recently celebrated the birth of my very first grandchild, Nakoa. My own beautiful daughter is now experiencing life through the new and incredible lens of parenthood. And every time I think of little Nakoa or the blessing of watching my own child have one of her own, my heart breaks wide open and overflows with love and gratitude.

If you’ve got children or grandchildren of your own, I’m sure you felt the pain in your gut when the news started flashing Gabby Petito’s face across every channel for hours each day. Yet, nothing any one of us felt will ever come close to Gabby’s parents, who have lost something no parent should ever have to lose. And how often are we overrun with devastating news each day? With this specific unimaginable loss, Gabby’s parents are positioned to experience even more loss, because this is what grief brings us. Deep and heavy depression, anger, frustration, shock – anxiety, guilt… the emotional side effects of this level of loss and grief can lead to so many psychological and physiological struggles.

Life Bucks Hard
On a Wednesday life can be normal and Thursday rolls around with a whole new reality we never asked for. This seems to be a fact of life, so if we are tasked with the ebb and flow of the world around us, it’s so important to have access to resources when the tough moments bring us to our knees. SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a place anyone can call anytime for so many mental health and wellness resources.

In 2020, the Helpline received 833,598 calls. This is a 27 percent increase from 2019, and I am sharing this information to remind every person reading this that they are not alone. Whether you’re experiencing grief or depression or just need an ear, leaning into the resources around you is so very important.

We Are Capable of So Much
I talk about becoming Change Proof as a lifestyle and a mindset, because we never know what’s around the corner, but we can guarantee there will be change, whether it’s positive or the worst kind of negative. Change Proof principles apply, even in the midst of deep grief and unfair loss. Because, at its core, Change Proof is another way of saying – no matter what hand life deals me – I am going to use it to move forward – even when I don’t understand why.

Mental Health Moments
Leaning into resilience doesn’t always look like meditation and happy pauses. Sometimes, those mental health moments look like creating space to feel the grief and the sadness. And then making a conscious decision to step out of it. Resilience doesn’t mean we ignore the things that hurt us to the core. Resilience means we experience each moment of life, and then use those moments to grow and heal. Each one of us has this potential.

If I could send a message to Gabby’s parents, and everyone else hurting around the world, it would be one full of love… I would tell them that no matter what anyone ever says, sometimes life will be unfair and maybe even awful. I would encourage them to create space for that truth to exist because that is where their silver lining will come from. I would remind them that their mental reservoir of emotional strength is filling up each time they overcome adversity, even if they can’t tell right now. And I would wish for them, that they will find their own silver lining when life tests them.

Please Choose, For You
Resilience is the process of finding healthy ways to cope and adapt, especially in the face of adversity and utter despair. This is the difference between laying down where life bucked or choosing to stand up and stay in the fight. Resilience is a choice. And as far as I can tell, it’s the best way to take on the most difficult moments in life, even when it seems impossible. From choosing to build your own resilience to becoming Change Proof, you are giving yourself a guarantee that no matter what uncertainty and chaos life serves you, you will be okay, and even come out stronger on the other side.

When I look into little Nakoa’s eyes, I see the whole world and I would remind every single one of you that you are the same. Within you, there is potential for everything that exists, even in the face of hardship. I would encourage you to make space for that truth too, the one that says, “You can overcome anything”, so that in the darkest moments, there is another reality simultaneously existing.

Building Home
Life is short and packed with uncertainty. There is no doubt that Gabby’s journey ending will so deeply affect how her parents’ journey will look moving forward. The same is true for each one of us, as we face down adversity or just life in general. And that is reason enough to build something change proof, to meet life where it meets you and to know that you will be better than okay. Building resilience is like building your own home, on the inside. A place of love, acceptance, and peace within. A place where you can seek refuge. A place where the lights are always on for you. A place where you always have what you need to heal, grow and eventually thrive. A place where nothing can break you – no matter what.