After the Storm: Remaining Strong in the Broken Places

Hurricanes, broken hearts, unexpected life changes. All of these storms, real or metaphorical, can pass through your life and change your entire world in the blink of an eye. Sometimes the aftermath of the storm hits you immediately and, other times, just when you thought you were sailing smoothly ahead. Either way, you’re left standing in the rubble of loss, hurt, grief, and any other number of emotions as you process the change that has entered into your life. Often times, you’re left feeling broken and wondering just where and how you will rebuild.

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The Southernmost Buoy Standing Tall in the Aftermath of Hurricane Irma

As this New Year begins, many of us are trying to start anew and move forward in our lives, putting the pieces back together in our broken places— homes and hearts—after the storms of 2017. For some, it was life as they knew it on an island they called home, a big move, or the loss of a beloved pet. For others, it was recovering from an injury that prevented them from participating in life as they were accustomed to, a relationship breakdown, or a large transition in life, like a job loss or retirement, that left them searching for their own identity.

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.

~ Ernest Hemingway

Remaining strong in our broken places requires us to be patient and gentle with ourselves. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, questioning just how long it’s going to take to rebuild and get back to that comfortable space in life we’re so desperately longing for. Sometimes, however, we confuse strength with having to handle everything on our own and putting on a brave face, when, in reality, there is incredible strength in our own vulnerability. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is an even stronger approach than putting on the armor or pushing the ill feelings that arise aside, and what we often fail to give ourselves credit for, is the strength we exude in these more vulnerable choices that we make along this journey.

Here is what being  S T R O N G  can look like, too:

Support – Asking for help and seeking support from an outside source.  Whether through close friends, a therapist, inspirational books, etc., it’s okay to ask for help.  You do not have to weather your storm alone.

Time Out – It’s okay to stop.  Taking time to yourself is a powerful choice on your road to recovery. Going for walks, taking a break from social activities, booking a vacation, or even taking a leave from your regular work schedule are all empowering steps you can gift yourself.  Too many times we equate stopping with failure, yet so much healing can come from being still and taking the time to focus on ourselves.

Reflection – Quiet time, journaling, yoga, meditation.  All are powerful tools that allow you to ground yourself, organize your thoughts and gain some insight and clarity on your journey.

Opening Your Heart – It’s easy to shut down, numb the feelings and simply protect yourself from any future hurt, but the only way we ever fully heal is to feel—all of it. Staying open to new possibilities ahead and trusting the process creates the space for hope.  Stay open.  You never know just what’s around the corner or what the Universe is conspiring on your behalf.

No – Don’t be afraid to say NO to what doesn’t resonate with you. Creating healthy boundaries with people and projects and remaining true to yourself builds personal strength.  Sometimes saying NO means saying YES to yourself.  It’s not selfish to choose YOU.

Gratitude – Being thankful for even the smallest of things and choosing to focus on the positive aspects of our lives is a huge energy shifter.  Whether mentally listing all of the things you’re grateful for while out for a walk, before bed, or writing them in a journal, bringing these things into your awareness has a powerful effect on your perspective.

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Reflecting on my time in Key West. (Historic Seaport ~ May 2017)

As we step into a New Year, and what for many of us signifies an opportunity for a fresh start, may I also remind you that there is still beauty to be found in the broken places; a new bloom reminds us of life’s natural flow and resiliency during tough times—that we can survive and thrive; a difficult life experience brings with it an opportunity to embrace our vulnerability, a deeper awareness for this life we’re gifted with each day, and a reminder of what really matters.

If you’re wondering if you have what it takes to be strong, or, even worse still, you’re judging yourself for what you perceive to be weakness while you navigate your way, remember that strength doesn’t always look like armor and feel like solitude. If you’re putting any of the above practices into place, you, too, are STRONG…you are BRAVE… and I believe in YOU.

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