In real life “plot twists” don’t always feel good. Maybe it’s because in general human beings view plot twist as unexpected changes that are bit scary since we can’t prepare for them in advance. If you have ever said the words: “I hate surprises” then you know exactly what I am talking about because a plot twist is a surprise of sorts. And who likes potentially painful surprises or unexpected changes that have the potential to turn our whole worlds upside down? No one.
The abandonment of a spouse and a subsequent separation is certainly a plot twist. A divorce, the death of a spouse, the loss of a child, and certainly abuse—all qualify as “plot twists”. Most people do not go into marriages anticipating that something bad and painful is going to happen. During those dark times—and when the residual effects continue to linger, we perceive the plot twists as real pain. Pain that is indescribable and for which we’ve had no preparation.
There is a meme floating around social media that says, “When something goes wrong in your life, just yell ‘Plot Twist’ and move forward”. We are reminded as trite as it may seem to “move forward”, but how do you do that? How do you move past something you were never prepared to handle? Although the perfect answer escapes us there are a few ways to help us process these painful unexpected changes as we move forward daily. The following admonitions are not a necessarily panacea for all your healing needs, but they may help you to navigate those murky waters or at least serve as a starting point for moving forward:
Fight for Hope: You are still alive. Sometimes you may not feel like that is a good thing, but you still have things to look forward to in this life! Yes, the loss seems insurmountable, rightfully so, but you are still alive for a reason, and that is why you should fight to remain hopeful. Making a list of a few things you can still be grateful for will help. Thoughts of small blessings can pull you through despair and back into hope. As your list continues to grow you will find your heart strengthened by realization that you are still alive and have things to be grateful for, and then you will begin to feel that there is more goodness in store for you despite what you initially thought when the darkness first fell.
Watch your thoughts—and emotions: To help build your hope tell yourself that it is okay to let some thoughts and feelings pass without holding on to them. You can let them drift on by. In fact, you can refuse to engage them but instead think of something completely different. There is an analogy that may speak to this: A man is canoeing down the river and simply enjoying his day, taking in some nature, when all of a sudden he sees trash in the water. He sees empty potato chip bags, pop cans, a bit of food and all kinds of eye sores. He has two options: he can fixate on the trash and allow it to upset his mood and the relaxation he is seeking or he can simply drift on by and shift his gaze away from it. He has the chance to turn his thoughts away from the distracting trash and back to the beauty of the nature that is around him; so do you. As you experience the painful thoughts from your plot twists, you can still decide what will be allowed to lodge in your heart and mind.
Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing the best you can”: I heard this some time ago and thought it was fabulous simply because some days you will fail miserably so you need to learn to be gentle with yourself. We all do. Some hours, minutes or seconds you will fall apart, and that is normal. No one can tell another person how or how long to grieve or go through life’s upheavals. It really is one day at a time. Building on hope, watching your thoughts and emotions, and being gentle with yourself will help you to make it through the days and nights with more peace.
Reach Out to Your Support System: A great support system will help you to be gentle with yourself because it will encourage you and remind you of the good truth about yourself. Having one or two people you can share with, who have proven to be trustworthy and with whom you can be yourself can be crucial in your healing. Family, a few friends, church members, or a good counselor with expertise may serve this purpose; however, I don’t suggest that you tell your business to just anyone who will listen.
I hope you will find the above suggestions to be helpful tools for processing through and adjusting to the plot twists that invade your life. They have certainly been helpful to me, and many I have engaged in a variety of settings. We know that plot twists in movies are never the end of the story. Similarly, the plot twists, unexpected negative circumstances and changes you may be going facing are not the end of your story either, so be hopeful, watch your thoughts and emotions, be gentle with yourself, reach out for help….and keep going on one day at a time.
-“Divorce means that you are dormant not dead.” -Cheryl Nielsen