Monday, 03 November 2014 17:29

Bounce Back From a Setback: 6 Ways

Written by  Rev. Victor M. Parachin
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Since she was 12, Catherine Romero was athletic, running and then doing triathlons. Shortly after posting her personal best time of 1 hour, 31 minutes in a triathlon, disaster struck. The Seattle attorney suffered a stroke. “No one expects a healthy, fit 39-year-old woman to have a stroke. I certainly didn’t,” she says. Testing revealed a large hole in her heart. Doctors believe she was born with this hole and her heart enlarged to compensate for it. During the two months she waited to have surgery, she remained at home. The once very energetic, strong athlete was now “weak, dizzy, unable to walk or use my left arm properly, having trouble with certain words, afraid of having another stroke and feeling extremely depressed.”

Romero’s surgery was successful and she has since completed another triathlon. Friends helped her deal with that challenging time. “Thank God for good friends,” Romero says. Her longtime running partner came by daily to walk with Romero. Another friend who was an MD, made daily house calls.


When unwelcome events come our way, friends can indeed be a lifeline to recovery. Along with the help of friends, there are other ways to bounce back from a setback. Here are six suggestions.



#1) Practice expansion. “A fail proof formula for liberation: dare to keep expanding your heart even if you’ve been justifiably wounded by pain or disappointment. The effort is never wasted,” notes Judith Orloff, MD. When we experience a life wound, often our first response is to tighten up, withdraw and retreat. Rather than contract and restrict yourself, remain more pliable and open. Share your wound with others. This reduces feelings of shame and isolation allowing healing to flow in.


Harry Reid is the U.S. Senator from Nevada. In 1972 he received an urgent message to call his mother. “That is when I learned my father had shot himself. Prior to this moment, I had never thought of suicide as something that would affect my life. Suicide was something that only happened in other people’s families,” he said. He and his family were devastated but the silence about it was oppressive. “Afterward, my family did not talk about it, and we bore the heavy burden of that tragedy in secret...My embarrassment and shame made a melancholy situation even worse.” For years he kept his father’s suicide a secret. Then he found “the courage to be open about my father’s death. For the first time, I found myself sharing with my Senate colleagues the fact my father killed himself.” He found this openness healing and now advises others “to lift the veil of secrecy.”



#2) Study the Psalms. It’s no wonder soldiers often carry copies of the Psalms with them into danger zones. For thousands of years, these simple but profound human spiritual expressions have helped people cope with tragedy and find peace in times of fear and anxiety. A quick glance at the Psalms will provide any person with hope and inspiration no matter what they are facing. Some of the most inspiring words from the Psalms include these:


Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” (NIV)


Psalm 57:1-2 “In you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”


Psalm 31:15 “My times are in your hands; deliver me...”


Psalm 67:19-20 “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our god is a God who saves.”



#3) Express gratitude. Here’s wisdom from author Melody Beattie: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Gratitude, no matter how dark and difficult life may be, can transform the dismay into delight.



#4) Look for the light. “Light is above us, and color around us; but if we have not light and color in our eyes, we shall not perceive them outside us,” noted Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. Even in the deepest darkness, keep an eye out for glimpses of light.


DeeAnn Burnette-Lundquist and Eddie were 19 and 21 when they married in 1976. Because they lived with their parents until their marriage, they didn’t have a lot of personal belongings with which to furnish their own home. However, Eddie had a small lock box and she asked him what it was. His response was “just stuff” and she never questioned him about it again.


During the marriage whenever they moved Eddie always carefully took his little box to each new location. It was always placed in the closet in an inconspicuous corner. Over the 21 years they were married, DeeAnn simply accepted it as Eddie’s space” though she was curious about it but concluded the box probably contained “pictures, letters, etc., from an old girlfriend or something.” DeeAnn trusted her husband implicitly and he never betrayed that trust. “The box became an accepted part of our closet.”


Eddie died at 43 after a 10 month battle with cancer. “The loss was more devastating that I can begin to describe.” Of course, after the death she began to go through his things, keeping some and giving others away. It was then she came across the box. “To my surprise, his ‘lock’ box wasn’t locked and probably never had been. As I opened it, I saw familiar handwriting – my own. The contents of the box were all the letters and cards I ever sent him. He had saved each and every one of them. The joy this brought to me was worth the 21 year wait.”



#5) Learn the lesson. The deepest life learning God has for us often takes place in the darkest life places. There’s always a lesson which can be gleaned out of a hard time. One woman who extricated herself from an abusive relationship, sat down months after it ended and asked herself: “What gifts has this traumatic experience brought into my life?” “I made a long list,” she says. It included: patience, diligence, focus and negotiation skills. All of those will be useful for facing and future adversities.



#6) Be a victor not a victim. The distinction between these two is simple. A victim blames; a victor learns. A victim is passive; a victor is active. A victim becomes hesitant and timid; a victor becomes bold and courageous.


One who is definitely a victor though he could have allowed himself to become a victim is Dave Denniston. A world-class swimmer, Denniston just missed the cut to represent the U.S. at the Olympics. He was about to start coaching in New Zealand when an accident changed his life. During a winter vacation in Wyoming, Denniston was sledding when he hit a tree and became paralyzed from the waist down. He immediately chose to focus on his potential not on the problem. As a result he found opportunities for personal growth.


Denniston learned how to practice his sport without using his legs and competed with the USA Paralympic Swim Team. He also travels the country as a motivation speaker. “The greatest gift we’ve been given is our mind,” he often reminds audiences made up primarily of young people. “The sooner you focus on the positive, the happier you’ll be. Focus on what you can do; don’t get wrapped up in what you can’t do,” he adds.



Rev. Victor M. Parachin is a minister and author of a dozen books.


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