Appearances may not reflect reality,
particularly when it is necessary to hide a secret.  After 20 years of what seemed to be a perfect
marriage, Greg's wife came out as a lesbian. 
With her one sentence, “I’m gay,” their familiar, comfortable suburban
life turned upside down and Greg joined the ranks of straight
spouses—heterosexuals who unknowingly married gays.  Both mates made an abrupt turn into a future
that is very different from what they'd planned.

    Whether it’s a spouse coming out, as in
Greg's case, or dire illness, death of a child, financial ruin, or one of
countless other human crises, people do survive.  They work through the immediate pain and
recognize opportunity beyond.   This takes
time, but ten tested tools can help turn calamity into calm.

  1. Relax
    as it is.
      The past is gone; it cannot be
    changed.  The future is not yet here, and
    most of the things we fear will not happen. 
    All we really have is now--this moment in time.  Stay firmly in the present moment.  Breathe deeply and let go of regret over the
    past and fear of the future.  Now is
  2. Change
    your mind.
      Poet John Milton nailed
    it:  “The mind is its own place, and in
    itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”  Thoughts control actions and we control our
    thoughts.  Heal yourself through choice
    and effort.  Notice any tendency to
    replay your story line and relive your past dramas.  Press the stop button!  Replace destructive thinking with conscious
    optimism, and make a fresh start with uplifted thoughts.  Avoid people who carry and reinforce rage;
    instead, affirm hope.
  3. Keep
      Find a trusted friend who’s a
    good listener.  This may be a counselor,
    relative, pastor, or just someone you’ve known a long time.  Sharing your troubles and thoughts lightens
    your load and helps to clarify your own thoughts.  Just as important, talk to yourself!  Encourage yourself with positive self-talk to
    build confidence.  Repeat affirmations
    that are meaningful to you, such as, “I am a whole and worthwhile person.”  “I have everything I need to lead the life I
    choose.” “I can do this!”
  4. Find
    outside resources.
      A few clicks on the
    Internet can locate support groups and chat rooms for people in almost any
    crisis—health, family, relationship, financial, career, even spiritual.  If you’re not computer savvy, local public
    librarians can usually do the research for you. 
    Internet resources offer up-to-date information and, if necessary,
    protect your privacy and identity.
  5. Get
    a pet.
      Having a living being to love and
    care for is therapeutic, especially during a crisis.  Animals’ unconditional affection may comfort
    physical or emotional pain.
  6. Pay
    attention to your health.
      Take time for
    unhurried, nutritious meals and sufficient sleep.  Take a walk in place of a cocktail.
    “Everything in moderation” is a good guide, especially in times of stress.
  7. Cultivate
    curiosity about the larger world. 

    Consciously reach out to new friends and develop constructive new
    interests that move you outside your personal problems.  Take a class. 
    Start a hobby.  Learn a different
    skill, or travel to a place you’ve never seen.
  8. Nourish
    the spirit.
      Whether you’re religious or
    not, nourish your own spirit during this time of healing.  Find a practice that helps your find your own
    center, your inner peace.  Maybe it is
    meditation or prayer, reading spiritual books, yoga or bicycling, hiking a
    mountain or sitting quietly by a river. 
    Follow your own definition of spirituality and practice it.
  9. Forgive.  Harboring resentment is like eating rat
    poison, then expecting the rat to die. 
    Anger only hurts the person who is angry.  Philosopher Wayne Dyer summarized it:  “It’s not the snakebite that kills you, it’s
    the venom.”  Research indicates that the
    ability to let go of resentment is paramount for ultimate emotional recovery.
  10. Live on Purpose.  Country singer Dolly Parton touched deep
    truth when she said, “Find out who you are, and do it on purpose.”  Invigorate mind and spirit by finding some
    meaningful cause, work, activity, philosophy, or value system that engages and
    uplifts.  Living “on purpose” feeds the
    need to give back and nurtures emotional health.  Use it as a yardstick to measure any new
    activity or direction.  Simply ask, “Is
    this on purpose?”

    There is no
guarantee of total recovery after any life crisis, but these ten tools have
worked repeatedly and are established in related literature. The very first
step is to open your heart to new purpose in a renewed life.  Set fresh goals to pursue with energy.
Ultimate healing requires choice, focus, effort, and time, but success is
certainly possible.  You have much to
give, so affirm your own worth in your thoughts and self-talk.  You can do this! 


  1. Gail Storey says:

    Carol, you share such well earned wisdom. These tips are a great summary, good for everyday living as well as coping in a crisis. Thanks for putting this post together.

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