Seven Tricks When Dealing with Adversity and Loss

The fox has many tricks, but the porcupine has one big trick. — Old Eastern Proverb

When it comes to learning to dance with loss and adversity, there is no one trick or silver bullet you can use to provide the perfect solution to your pain or challenge. It requires a pocket full of tricks, tips, steps, actions, ideas to get through the tough times — just like the fox with his many tricks.

I have found myself leaning on these tricks periodically whenever I’ve been met by adversity and loss. You might also find them helpful.

Seven Tricks that Help People Dance with Adversity*

1. Accept the fact that adversity has occurred

If you live with the reality that adversity is part of the human experience, it prepares you to accept adversity when it comes. I didn’t say it makes it easier but I think it can help you accept it more readily.

2. Proportion your response according to the nature and severity of the adversity

The response required after my motorcycle accident was multi-faceted and oscillated over the next three years. When Vicky died from kidney cancer, the shock and overwhelming sadness was intense and required a more radical and thorough response.

3. Analyze the situation

The trick is to be emotional but learn to engage the rational brain as soon as possible. After Vicky died, a friend recommended a book (Resilient Grieving) which I started reading two weeks after she died. The ideas and story in that book helped ground me even with the grief being so fresh.

4. Regulate your physical and emotional state

When adversity rolls over you, it’s easy to let order and a regular routine go out the window. I found the value of using nighttime for sleeping, daytime for being awake, and mealtimes for eating. I also got on my bike the day after Vicky died and got on it daily for weeks which helped regulate my physical and emotional state.

5. Reach out for help

It’s great when help comes to you but what do you do when it doesn’t? You reach out and without shame, ask those safe and empathetic friends and family to help you. It may also mean reaching out for professionals which I’ve done when needed.

6. Turn your predicament into a story

Telling your story to those who will listen helps you navigate and process your adversity. It was true after my accident and after I lost Vicky. Telling your story does something within you that’s hard to explain but I’ve experienced the difference it can make.

7. Reframe the adversity

You give yourself a gift when you stand back and look at your trouble from a different perspective. One way I’ve experienced that shift is by reading stories of survivors and resilient people. Those stories have a way of helping me reframe my own adversity plus helps me feel like I’m not alone.

Four Final Quotes

All sunshine makes the desert. – Arabian proverb

Fractures well cured make us more strong. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Adversity is the mother of progress.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man be perfected without trials. – Danish proverb

What ideas would you add to the list of seven?


* These ideas were inspired by Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal