Everybody’s been there; everybody’s been stared down by the enemy.
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing; bow down to the mighty.
Don’t run; just stop holding your tongue.
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live.
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in.
Show me how big your brave is.
– Sara B.

When faced with a personal tragedy, life often feels impossible.  When faced with what seems like an irrevocable loss, it often feels like it stops, like there is nothing left to look forward to, like all that you have is a bank of hazy memories, slowly fading, but still clear enough to continuously send pangs of sadness through your heart and out to the extremities of your body.

I’ve been toggling between the many stages of grief lately–moments of utter acceptance and peace, complemented by phases of sheer anger or depression.  It seems that each day is unpredictable, and that it is in the hands of some sort of higher being where my mood may go on any given day.

I began to think that the best way to cope with these negative emotions was sheer avoidance.  Yes, avoidance seemed like the right choice.  Any sort of trigger to any past memories seemed to reignite the sharp and brokenhearted pain in my chest, and I suppose I thought if I avoided those triggers–those sudden moments reminding me how I loved and lost–that I would be okay, that it would make it easier.

photo (2)But what I’ve learned is just the opposite.  

When faced with a personal tragedy, and when life feels impossible and hopeless, it is up to us to make it feel possible again; only we can restore the hope that we’ve lost.  Avoiding the triggers only incites fear, and distractions from the real and genuine emotions that flood our brains only deprive us of the process of grief and the benefits of allowing ourselves time to live in the flood, find a boat, and row ourselves to shore.

Yes, I’m still meeting these unexpected triggers on a daily basis.  I’m still rowing myself to shore, but with each day that passes, the triggers hurt less.  Because, instead of avoiding all of the triggers, I am allowing myself to make new memories with them, ones that will fill me with hope and joy and eventually alleviate the sadness that once accompanied them.

It would seem that avoidance only prolongs the inevitable, that it only hurts us more in the end, but in order to get to acceptance, living in the grief and allowing ourselves time is integral to growth.  In fact, it seems that investing that time actually makes the process shorter, more effective, and allows us more time to accept and appreciate what the world has laid before us.  It allows us more time to see that we are brave, strong, and capable, and it grants us the opportunity to remind ourselves of that.

Because we all want to see ourselves be brave.

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