When you hear the word “comeback” what image comes to your mind? Is it a glorious success story after a long struggle, is it healing from a wound that you thought that you would never recover from, or is it you finally getting something that you’ve been waiting for years to get? I think a lot of us can say that comebacks differ from person to person, but we are all agreed on what it is. A comeback is overcoming an obstacle or difficulty that was meant to knock us down and keep us down. But how is a comeback achieved? How do we rise from the ashes of what was meant to be a sure thing, something stable, something whole, something permanent? As a fellow human being who has been down the rough road of life, I can definitely say that overcoming and resiliency are not easy things to come by or even foster. When the plans don’t work out, when trust in something or someone you thought was sure is broken, when something precious is taken from you with coldhearted malice, when someone puts the message of shame or unworthiness in your mind, it is difficult to imagine stepping up and rising again to live a full life. However, it is possible. Now many of you are looking at that last sentence and shaking your head in disbelief, but I’m not writing this statement flippantly. I’m writing this based on experience. I’ve been privileged to be on the front rows of many individual’s comeback moments when they realize that they have survived the worst, and they can move forward with their lives and thrive. But how do we get there? I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a pre-approved formula that says, “this will work for sure.” But I do have some ideas and tips that may work well for you based on what situation you are in.
1. Don’t isolate yourself from people. The first tendency that we often take when we’ve been deeply hurt is to avoid people like crazy. This is a very counterproductive method to cope with our pain. I like to describe it to people this way. Pain can be the driving mechanism for connection to others. We need to know that we are not alone in our pain or in our recovery. Connecting with healthy people who have been through similar experiences can help us with knowing what next steps to take.
2. Learn to accept what happened. That is a heavy statement to make, I know. But if we’re going to be candid, how many times do we add to our own pain by not accepting what happened to us and trying to fix the situation? To recover, we must admit that something happened and learn to accept the reality that things are not going to go back to the way they were before. Accepting the situation does not mean we have to like what happened or even say that it was right for us to go through what we went through. Accepting the circumstances and not fighting them is the first step towards making positive change.
3. Take things one step at a time. In moments of great pain, I often find that it is hard for me to see any farther down the path than one step that I can take in that moment. As a perpetual planner, not being able to see the next two or three steps is terrifying and frustrating. But this is the time when I must work within the limitations of what I can see. I urge you to do the same. Is this easy to do? No. Not at all. But sometimes during these moments of pain, we can only handle one small baby step forward at a time. Taking these small steps can also teach us great lessons in ways that we would never have learned otherwise.
4. Ask yourself the question of what can I learn from this struggle and how can I use this to help others? I am a big believer that pain can shape us into better people overall if we utilize it to the best of our ability. Not only that, but we can also use our pain to help others in many ways. Who knows, you might be able to share an experience that you have had that can help others become empowered in their own journey. Additionally, using our pain to help us with growing and moving forward can help us cope with it in the moment, and not resent it later on.
5. Take it easy on yourself and show your grace through this process. In the middle of the struggle, we can be hard on ourselves because we are not meeting our own standards of progress. This can sabotage our efforts, not help them. Every journey can be fraught with us learning how to do something new or stepping out into unknown territory and that can involve making progress in small measures. We must be willing to change our expectations to match where we are and stick with those.
6. Don’t ever give up! I know that seems like a trite statement, but there is a lot of truth to it. I have seen a lot of people give up in the middle of the struggle due to the intensity of their pain, but it only makes things worse. Giving up can be us resigning to the fact that things will never change, and the pain will always be the same. As long as we are still alive and still able to move, we are still able to look for and act on different options available to us. Don’t ever stop moving or trying until you get to where you need to be.
I’ll be the first to tell you that these steps are not always clear or easy to follow. And I will also tell you that I can’t guarantee that these steps will always lead you to where you want to go or lead to a good result. I can only offer you this in a spirit of humility as well as goodwill and hope that you can glean what you need from these steps.