Tragedy befalls everyone. No one is exempt. Just as each person is born and dies, everyone experiences joy and pain, including the loss of a loved one. Divorce can cause pain and suffering even greater than the loss of a spouse to death. Life’s journey simply will be horrible at times.
Experiencing sadness when tragedy occurs is not only normal but healthy. Everyone grieves in their own way and no one should give too much credence to friends and family members who insist you are suffering the wrong way or too much or too long. Most of all, you should not feel guilty about being sad following a tragedy.
On the other hand, if you can’t seem to shake the blues and you are ready to stop grieving, here are some ideas to help you overcome sadness.
Remember that it isn’t about you
Whether you are struggling with a death in the family or divorce, you need to recognize that this tragedy was not your fault and not a reflection on your character. Bad things happen to good people. They just do. You are OK.
Remember that it will get better
Rest assured that life can return to normal; some changes are permanent, but your life will go on. You will be happy again. You may have to argue with yourself to be convincing, but don’t let your feelings of sadness persist, push them away.
Remember the breadth of the problem is limited
Even in the case of losing a spouse, which seems to pervade every aspect of your life, remember there is much that will remain unchanged. Your children and other family members are still here for you. Your career will be largely unchanged. In fact, most things will carry on as if nothing has happened. That may make you angry at some level, but it should also give you hope.
Find your faith
In the darkest times in life, many find genuine comfort in faith. If that feels foreign to you, but you genuinely want to find a way out from under a dark cloud, consider exercising faith. Try praying. Visit a church. Seek a spiritual connection to God.
During a time of sadness, you might not feel the least bit like doing something for someone else. You may not even feel that you have the physical strength required to give service. Identify a genuine need in someone else and address that need, no matter how small. That simple act will likely give you more strength, more energy and more optimism than it requires. Treat this like the directions on a shampoo bottle: lather, rinse, repeat. Serve, feel refreshed, repeat.
Those who suffer the greatest degree of sadness have a tendency to ruminate on their problems. Focusing on the problems tends to amplify them. There are two tactics you can use to end the rumination: first, do something else and second, schedule a time a few days out to ruminate and ponder your problems. Chances are that by the time you get to the scheduled rumination time, your desire to sit and ruminate will have passed. You will have moved on.
Don’t be too eager to move past your sadness following a genuine tragedy. Grieving is good. On the other hand, if you find yourself distraught over a broken lunch date or an inconsiderate comment from a coworker, take courage. Apply these principles to overcome your angst and find happiness again. Some of these ideas are well developed in the book Learned Optimism.
Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.