What hurts makes you stronger? Maybe; it depends, really. Suffering is not something I would celebrate or suggest, but, as I’ve noticed is an underlying theme in life, there seems to be some good mixed with the bad. Some treasure in the ruin and the potential for growth through suffering.
“The person who has had more experience of hardships can stand more firmly in the face of problems than the person who has never experienced suffering. From this angle, then, some suffering can be a good lesson for life.” — Dalai Lama
If you’ve read my about page where I share why I write the way I write, you know that my brother’s death is what sparked (eventually) a major transition in my life.
In the beginning stages after losing my brother to suicide, I wouldn’t say that I experienced what’s referred to in psychology as “post traumatic growth.” I did not feel blessed by what happened—how could one feel such an absurd thing after such a tragedy?
I don’t think we’ll ever be grateful for having a wound like losing someone we love, but, eventually, we can be grateful for the spiritual rooms that we enter because of where our path has led. We can be grateful for the cracking open that happens as a result of having such a deep wound.
It’s not that I appreciate the tragedy of having someone I love die so unexpectedly—and certainly not twice—but I cannot reverse what happened. I am here, having known the depths and sharp edges of loss, so what am I going to do about it? Am I going to rise to the occasion?A survivor needn’t be grateful for what they have survived in order to be grateful for the path they’ve chosen in the wake of trauma. tell a friend
I ended up choosing to shine through the darkness, though sometimes I have to remind myself that I chose not to be a victim. I am only human, after all, but this is me also being the light. I want to honor the light that we’re all capable of being in one way or another, for whatever reasons we have.
Inspired by Chapter 7 from Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis, which covers the potential benefits of the “right kind” of adversity at the “right time” in one’s life, I decided to write out a list of the ways in which I have grown through suffering.
This is a healing exercise for me and a reminder that you, too, are made of the same light.
15 Ways I’ve Experienced Growth Through Suffering
1. I am more confident in my ability to handle big and small problems. Having risen to the challenge of coping with loss, my self-concept has vastly improved to incorporate hidden strengths and abilities.
2. I don’t get stuck in my wounds and, if I do, I return to hope faster and easier. I realized how I had been avoiding my wounds and now practice staying with them and honoring what is, with presence and compassion.
3. I am more receptive to the help that others want to give.
4. I waste less energy on insignificant events and feelings. Trauma shut off the motivation to play with drama.
5. My closest friendships have been strengthened.Opening your heart in the middle of pain and stress, and allowing yourself to fully feel, is brave. Feeling what you’re feeling is brave. Asking how you can help yourself is brave. tell a friend
6. In the weeks following the loss, I resolved to live my life differently—not to stay in the corporate world where I was miserable, but to wake up with authentic joy because I loved what I did. I stuck to that resolution.
8. I feel a deeper level of strength, maturity, and wisdom unfolding from the inside.
9. I have a greater appreciation and tolerance for others. I am quicker to forgive and more compassionate with those who differ from me.
10. I am more likely to hug people and say “I love you.”“There is usually some good mixed in with the bad, and those who find it have found something precious: a key to moral and spiritual development.” — Jonathan Haidt tweet this
11. I wake up, more often than not, to the realization that life is a gift that I had been taking for granted before the loss.
13. Achievement goals for achievement’s sake have lost their appeal. My intentions now revolve around how I can make a positive impact on the world in ways that I can apply my whole heart.
14. On a regular basis, I check in with my quality of life and contemplate where I really want to end up and how I want to feel along the way. I am more aware of how I’m living inside, and I am more intentional with my decisions and how I can take care of my own energy.
15. I began to contemplate what spirituality meant to me, which has ushered me into ever-evolving stages of growth. This direction has inspired my writing and relationships.
Please, tell me:
What have you grown through that you once thought would destroy you? How did you grow and what/who helped you?
If it would be helpful and healing for you, share any stories of growth, renewal, and hope with me in the comments.
Know a fellow survivor? Share this post with them as an ode to their light.
You are brave. You are strong. You are light. Probably more of all of those things (and likely more than all of those things) than you’ve ever given yourself credit for.