Widowed Friends of Halton recently celebrated its first year anniversary and was privileged to have Dr. Flavia Ceschin as keynote speaker at its gala event.

flavia ceschinDr. Ceschin is a counselor who specializes in grief support and counseling as well as being the driving force behind Heartache2Hope a loss after suicide support community.

With over 8 years of counseling experience, Dr. Ceschin came to speak at our Widowed Friends anniversary event bringing a message of hope and resilience in the face of loss.

She kindly shared her presentation with us, so we’ve excerpted some key points to review and consider as we move forward on our journeys.

Dr. Flavia Ceschin

Dr. Flavia Ceschin

“Let’s take some time to think about healing from loss. What does that mean? We all know that “healing” does not mean that your heart will be exactly like new—there will always be a wound there from the loss. You will never be the same again. But healing does mean that your heart can love again, that it can feel joy again, that it can laugh again– with sincerity. That is what I mean when I talk about healing in grief.

This healing process is what psychologists call resilience. A lot of people think you’re either resilient or you’re not. But, do we either have it or don’t have it? Or, is resilience a skill we can cultivate? Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, lost her husband suddenly in May 2015 and she answers this question eloquently in a recent speech:

“You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are—and you just might become the very best version of yourself.”

Let’s look at what people who demonstrate resilience do and learn from that.

Point one: Resilient people start with reality, accept it, and build on it. That means they accept what has happened and where they are now—even if they don’t like it. They take inventory of their inner and outer resources and build their choices on a firm understanding of the resources available to them. They choose life and hope. I call it setting your intention to heal and to find joy in life again. This is your first task–To see yourself as a survivor, rather than a victim; to focus your attention on life and not just your grief. Healing from grief isn’t just about sitting in the pain of loss, it is also about creating a new life that makes you happy.

Point two: Resilience grows from the way we process or interpret the bad things that happen to us. Resilient people do not believe that everything that happens to them is because of them. They do not blame themselves. In the aftermath of loss, we often plague ourselves with “Should haves…Could have dones..”– Not helpful in healing. I have learned that, sometimes, bad things happen to good people. It has nothing to do with what they did or didn’t do. Accepting this and not blaming ourselves for everything helps make us stronger and open to renewal and life.

Point three: Resilient people take action. They are proactive. Remember what I said before–“time alone does not heal—it’s what you do in that time.” Grieving and restoring life, side by side.

Resilient people tend to be optimistic. I think proactive and optimistic go hand in hand. When faced with a challenge, they are more likely to say, “I can get through this.” They know that sorrow, despair and crushing grief will not last forever. They are able to sit in their grief with this knowledge that they will not be sitting there forever.

Point four: Resilient people choose to focus on the positive as well as the negative. Being resilient does not mean that you never experience hard days. But being resilient does mean that you choose to experience positive emotions along with the negative ones.

Make a deliberate choice to focus on the positive. This is hard to do because human beings are hardwired to focus more on the negative than the positive. For example, if 5 good things and 1 bad thing happen on a particular day—what do we usually ruminate about at the end of the day—the one bad thing. So how do we fight this tendency?

Rick Hanson is a neuropsychologist who wrote a book called Hardwiring Happiness suggests that we can hardwire our brain for happiness by focusing on “taking in the good”. To take in the good, we need to be proactive about making positive experiences an inherent part of our memory.   Then we need to “sit” in these positive experiences.

Point five: Resilient people do not believe that something will affect all areas of their life.   In other words, they look at the big picture and don’t just focus on one thing. When parents who have lost a spouse or child come to me and ask me how they can help their children, I always say “get kids back to their routine as quickly as possible.” I believe that this is often good advice for adults too. The timing of getting back into your routine, or developing a new one, is different for each person. Each person’s grief journey is as unique as his or her thumbprint. But most often when they get a routine back or develop a new one—whether that is going to work or other activities—it has helped them. At first, people’s experience is one of “what am I doing here and why would anything matter?” but slowly, activities and work becomes a welcome distraction and a source of accomplishment and new confidence. This routine can help you see that there are areas in your life that are going well—it gives you the big picture and that there is more to your life than your loss.

Point six: Resilient people are willing to be helped by others and proactively reach out to others. Human beings do not grieve well alone. A big part of being resilient comes from the support of friends, family and community.   Resilient people not only rely on their own strength, but also the strength of others to help guide them through tough times.

If times seem really dark and you feel stuck, don’t be afraid or hesitate to seek professional help to give you that boost you need in moving forward.”

To read the full text of Dr. Ceschin’s presentation, please check out our resources section. To learn more about the counseling Dr. Ceschin provides you can contact her at drflaviaceschin@gmail.com.

What are your thoughts on resilience? Add your comments about ways you’ve found to enhance resilience and we’ll post for the group.