Struggle is Inevitable, but Also Holds Opportunity
People seek therapy for a variety of issues, but a leading reason is when someone’s world takes an unexpected turn and they find themselves facing some form of loss. Pain and anxiety may be triggered by the loss of a relationship, person, job, health and more. This shift in reality leads many to doubt what they thought they could depend on and can breed distrust towards self, others and the future. Depression and anxiety may become central while confidence and hope diminish. It is normal to be sad and scared during periods of loss and change but be careful not to lose sight of the promise which these experiences afford. Pain and loss are always the precursor to growth, wisdom and dare I say gratitude if handled with patience, humility and an open mind.
Many clients come to counseling with the goal of “happiness”. Unfortunately, happiness comes and goes and what will we do when happiness vacates for a period of time? I believe the goal of purpose and meaning is much more valuable since it alone can carry us through seasons of unhappiness. Purpose and meaning support us through times of loss, betrayal or fear. Loss and change is inevitable, but the growth and gratitude produced is optional and dependent upon the individual going through it. It’s the age-old story of death and rebirth: the Phoenix rising from it’s ashes, Christ resurrecting after crucifixion, Persephone coming forth in Spring after having descended into the underworld for the Winter. These stories and many more embody a very important truth and tell a potential story about every one of us. There’s a reason they have endured for centuries.
Our passage through loss and change is certainly an existential journey making it even more difficult. It’s akin to “wandering the wilderness in search of the Promised Land” for those of you familiar with the Exodus story. We are each called out of a prison and promised a better place, but we first have to wander the wasteland of the unknown without even a map. The journey we’re called into may be a voluntary exodus when we leave familiar things behind no longer serving us or a forced journey through unplanned and unexpected loss. Either way, we leave behind a prison and feel lost and uncertain while stepping into the unknown while giving room for growth and renewal. The journey requires faith and patience. But, it will lead to a better place and if pain and struggle is given it’s proper place, we will all find our personal promised lands complete with gratitude, purpose and a much stronger sense of meaning. It is only then we can look back upon our loss and struggle with fresh eyes and see how it served us.
Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in both California and Arkansas offering video based counseling in both states and also offers relationship and individual coaching nationally.