With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.
~Wayne W. Dyer
The quote above probably causes most of us a good bit of consternation. It’s a tough either/or situation. Okay, so I might be able to drag myself out of having a pity party with some situations, but treating something truly awful as a gift? I have struggled with this more than once, beginning with my father’s death when I was sixteen.
I think timing is a big factor in tragic situations, such as the unthinkable loss of a child. One must have time and space, sometimes years, to absorb such a heart-wrenching loss. And yet…we’ve all seen stories of loved ones who used the illness or death of a child or other family member to galvanize themselves into action—to start a non-profit or other campaign to help other families facing a similar illness or to reform gun control or to alert others to the dangers of drinking and driving. Choosing to take such actions certainly becomes a gift to countless others, and I think it becomes a gift to the loved ones as well, in that it allows the family members to move forward, to turn their loss into something positive and not remain stuck in the past.
This is not to say that such choices are a cure for grief—the loss, of course, remains—but I think they are an opportunity to transform grief, and certainly an opportunity to grow, as Dyer says. I have a friend who still doesn’t like to celebrate Thanksgiving because of a family member who died on Thanksgiving when she was young. I remember thinking when she shared the story with me that it seemed a small reason to deprive herself of the enjoyment of a holiday that is, for most people, a lovely time for sharing with friends and family, adopted or otherwise. Why not instead choose to see Thanksgiving as a time to remember and honor the lost loved one (and others) and celebrate the loved ones still here?
We all know stories like this, and we may have our own. Nevertheless, as difficult as it is—at least initially—to see the gift in a situation, I think remaining open to the gift(s) that may come, however unlikely or unanticipated, is a good way to grow and deepen and move forward with our lives.
(Would love to hear your thoughts.)