How to Navigate Troubled Waters – Helpful Strategies in Dark Times

By Travis Clark, Esq.

There are times in everyone’s life where strife, sadness, depression, anger and grief are in abundance.  The question is not “if” this will occur, it is “when” it will occur.  In a room full of people, imagine who is standing or raising their hand after the questions below are asked:

Please stand, or raise your hand if you:

  • Lost a loved one to an illness, or random act of fate?
  • Experienced a divorce?
  • Had tragedy strike you or your family?
  • Failed at an interview, or test?
  • Ever had your heart broken?
  • Been the victim of infidelity?
  • Been bullied?
  • Lived through a natural disaster?
  • Struggled through infertility, or lost a child in birth?
  • Have you had to cope with suicide?

If you asked these questions to this hypothetical room, the entire room would be standing or raising their hands by the end.

What does this tell us?

That adversity does not discriminate.  If you are alive, you will experience adversity at some point.  If this is a universal truth, then what? Well, then the question becomes: How do we handle this? How do we deal with such adversity?

How to handle adversity is dubbed “resilience” research.  There are whole fields of study on this topic.  Experts in this area study how humans cope with great tragedy when it strikes them.  What causes some to succeed in overcoming their grief, while others do not?  The ability of one to cope with adversity may be inherent in some and not others, but it can be learned, it can be taught.

There are three activities suggested by experts, that any one of us can engage, to get us through our most trying times.  These simple activities are meant to reframe the mind and cause us to see the world through different eyes.  This reframing is powerful, and when practiced with regularity it becomes a bulwark against our darkest moments.

When you find yourself going through an acrimonious divorce, or any adversity, try these three things:

  • Accept, and understand, that suffering is a part of every human life. Terrible things happen to you, just like anyone else.  Understanding that you are not unique in your suffering, helps you not feel a victim of your circumstance and accept the events you are dealing with.
  • Count three good things, each day. Good things that happen to you, or that you are blessed with, or are thankful for.  Switch your mental focus to the good, not the bad.  This is called “benefit finding.”
  • Lastly, ask yourself: “Is what I am doing helping me, or hindering me?” For example, if you have gone through a divorce or heartbreak, it is easy to count all the things you will be missing out on.  You would say to yourself things like: “I will never get to see his/her dog again; we won’t be going on that trip to Hawaii; look at all our pictures together, we won’t be…. etc. etc.”   When you take action during your time of suffering, ask yourself, “are the actions I am engaged in, helping me? Or hindering me?”  A good way not to “fool” yourself is to look at the outcome of your action, e. g. is your action causing you to cry, or be joyful, are you happy or sad?  If the answer is negative, then you are hindering yourself.

The fact is adversity happens to all of us.  Instagram, Facebook, and social media are NOT reality, life is not butterflies and rainbows all of the time. Life is messy and difficult.  Being resilient means understanding that you are not being singled out when tragedy strikes.  It means that you are normal and experiencing life just like everyone else.  Keeping this mind frame will help you navigate your troubled waters and know that good times are just around the corner.  My moto: “This too, shall pass.”

For more see: “The three secrets of resilient people.” by Lucy Hone, Ph.D. and author– TedX Talk

Kimberly Surratt served for eight years on the executive council and has been the vice chair and then chair of the State Bar of Nevada Family Law Section. In addition, she is the President-Elect of the Nevada Justice Association and the chair of the domestic lobbying committee. She has lobbied with the Nevada Justice Association since 2004.

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