How to carry on when there is no end in sight

We have emotional peaks and emotional troughs. It is a natural part of living that we experience these highs and lows. I don’t know about you but I have often found myself to be consumed by the feelings I experience during the lows of life. So much so that nothing else seems to exist , or even matter,  when in these depths of pain and/despair.

It is very easy to lose our grip on reality at these times of crises. We can’t ‘see the wood for the trees’ and lose hope of a resolution to the crisis very quickly.

I am reminded of a passage in the classic children’s book, The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. The main character, Bilbo Baggins, and his companions are lost in a forest and becoming desperate as there seems to be no end to the trees. One of the companions climbs to the top of a tall tree to see if he can see which way they should travel to escape the forest. On reaching the top of the tree, all he can see all around is an endless sea of trees and relays this to the others at the foot of the tree. They all quickly lose hope of escape. What none of them know is that they are at the bottom of a shallow valley and that the forest ends just beyond the lip of the valley.

I liken our situations to this. At the depths of our pain and sorrows, we are in the depths of an emotional valley, and no matter how high the tree we climb, we cannot see beyond the lip of the valley. All we can do at this point is to tighten our belts and carry on walking. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean there is no end in sight. Keep on walking.

“Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley.”

James Rogers (1875-1961)

Go on then, keep on walking.


What Fabrice Muamba can teach you about loss

This last 2 weeks saw the outpouring of Grief in two very different contexts.

The first involved an unexplained coach crash in a road tunnel in the Swiss Alps; twenty eight people died, with twenty two of them being children returning home from a school trip.

This obviously caused huge pain and suffering for those closely involved with the dead – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, other close family, friends, classmates, teachers, emergency service personnel, etc. It is a long list.

The second incident involved the player, Fabrice Muamba of Tottenham Hotspurs  collapsing on the pitch during a football match in a competition. This was played out in front of tens of thousands of people. He was administered to on the pitch in front of the crowd, his fellow team mates and the competing team mates. There were a whole range of responses from the thousands involved. Some of the players on both teams, who perhaps knew the stricken player well, were clearly distraught at witnessing all this and were wondering around aimlessly or being consoled by others. There were others, who were involved in the resuscitation attempts that just got on with what they had to do; there was no time to do anything else. There were the spectators who reacted in stunned silence initially, as it became clear there was a serious incident taking place on the pitch. Some took up to chanting the player’s name. Others were in tears at what they were witnessing. Fabrice Muamba survived what turned out to be a heart attack (at the young age of 23) but is in intensive care with an uncertain outcome at the time of writing this.

Two different outcomes in very different contexts.
One major feeling/emotion being felt by thousands: Grief.
Everyone reacted to this feeling according to their programming to date on how to deal with Grief.

  • Some showed it openly and wept in public
  • Some had to ignore it and get on with the task at hand – the rescue workers and paramedics in both situations
  • Some looked dazed and had blank and/or uncomprehending looks on their faces, as if they literally could not take in what was happening (in case it overwhelmed them)
  • In the case of Fabrice Muamba, some chanted his name (some of them, to distract themselves from feeling the feelings being churned up by what they were witnessing)
  • And a whole load of other reactions.

This shows the many ways people deal with Grief.
Grief is a feeling associated with loss. It could involve the loss of:

  • a person (friend, partner, lover, parent, child, etc) or,
  • a thing (job, competition, pet, a treasured possession).

It is a feeling we all experience, but are rarely taught how to deal with.
In response to it. we have developed a whole range of, mostly unhealthy, approaches to dealing with it – approaches which keep the Grief trapped in the body for a much longer period of time, and ultimately leads to prolonged suffering.

Let’s be clear – Grief affects everyone at some stage in their life. It has to be dealt with, and sometimes that is not possible in the immediate aftermath of an event which leads to loss. It’s what happens in the following days and weeks that will dictate the amount of suffering a person will undergo.

Sometimes talking about it and counselling is not enough, and therapy takes too long to provide immediate relief.

I am very fortunate to have come across the tools of Emotional Intelligence, and particularly the SOAR method. They have helped me, and my many clients over the years, deal with all manner of situations which have resulted in Grief.
My own experience of using the tools came from the death of my father. It was sudden, unexpected and instant (a massive heart attack); I was the only member of the family not present when it happened, so I didn’t see him again until several days later at his funeral. For the first time I got a chance to use these tools in such a situation for myself. I was astounded that Grief could be dealt with within days, instead of weeks, months or years. It has left me with all the great memories and an appreciation of my father without the sadness and loss. In effect, I felt the pain of Grief for a short period of time, but did not have to suffer from it.

Where have you felt Grief?
Are you still feeling sadness and loss around that person or thing?
If you are, you do not need to. You can move beyond whilst still retaining all the good things.

Maybe it is time for you to stop being a slave to your emotions and become a master of your emotions? If it is time for you, there is help available, both with myself and others. Find someone, and start to live fully again.

We have no choice in that we will all die one day and loss and sadness are a part of life. On the other hand, suffering from Grief does not need to last – that is a choice we do have, even if it is not something we feel we are capable of.  There is help out there.

Go on then, make it easier on yourself today.