Lucy Hone of Christchurch, New Zealand, is a highly regarded lecturer on the subject of grief and the process of grieving. Six years ago, the reality of grief directly impacted Hone’s life in a very significant way. Hone was on a motorcar trip with some family and friends. Her 12-year-old daughter was in the girl’s best friend and the friend’s mother. Hone herself was in another vehicle.
While on the road, calamity occurred. The car carrying Hone’s young daughter was going through an intersection. The car had the right of way. While in the middles of the intersection, a car sped through a stop sign, rather than stopping as required. Hone’s daughter and the other two people in the car were killed instantly.
Although certainly possible to paraphrase what Hone experienced, she explains it best in her Ted Talk:
“In the blink of an eye, I find myself flung to the other side of the equation, waking up with a whole new identity. Instead of being the resilience expert, suddenly, I’m the grieving mother. Waking up not knowing who I am, trying to wrap my head around unthinkable news, my world smashed to smithereens. Suddenly, I’m the one on the end of all this expert advice. And I can tell you, I didn’t like what I heard one little bit.”
In the aftermath of Hone’s tremendous loss, she refined her concept of resilient grieving. She speaks of the three secrets of resilient grieving. These are:
- Sh*t happens
- Choose carefully where you select your attention
- Is what I’m doing helping or harming?
Secret #1: Sh*t Happens
The number one secret that Hone speaks and writes of is that resilient people, people who are best able to grieve successfully, are those that understand that “sh*t happens.” In more discrete terms, these are people who understand that loss and suffering are part of life.
People do not need to welcome loss and suffering. They just need to rationally understand that when loss and suffering occur, these situations are a part of everyone’s existence.
Knowing that sh*t happens prevents you from feeling like you’ve been singled out. As Hone specifically states: “Why not me? Terrible things happen to you, just like they do everybody else. That’s your life now, time to sink or swim.”
She goes on to note that “the real tragedy is that not enough of us seem to know this any longer. We seem to live in an age where we’re entitled to a perfect life, where shiny, happy photos on Instagram are the norm, when actually, as you all demonstrated at the start of my talk, the very opposite is true.”
Secret #2: Choose Carefully Where You Select Your Attention
The second secret to resilient grieving is that you need to be careful about where you choose to focus your attention. Hone notes that you need to appraise situations and then manage to focus on those things that you can change. On a related note, you also need to be able to accept those things that cannot be changed while going through the grieving process.
In her Ted Talk on the subject of the secrets of resilient grieving, Hone states that “this is a vital, learnable skill for resilience. As humans, we are really good at noticing threats and weaknesses. We are hardwired for that negative. We’re really, really good at noticing them. Negative emotions stick to us like Velcro, whereas positive emotions and experiences seem to bounce off like Teflon.”
Hone goes on to explain that in this day and age, we constantly are being faced with threats. We don’t appropriately evaluate these threats. As Hone says, “our poor brains treat every single one of those threats as though they were a tiger. Our threat focus, our stress response, is permanently dialed up.”
When it comes to the third secret or resilient grieving, Hone explains that resilient people, individuals who successfully grieve, work out a way to assess threats and stressors. They have a way of turning challenging situations into something more positive.
Secret #3: Is What I’m Doing Helping or Harming?
On a related note, the third secret of resilient grieving is determining whether what you are doing is helping or harming. The question of “is what I’m going helping or harming?” is one that commonly is utilized in a therapeutic setting. This question does require you to engage in rational thought about issues associated with your grief and the grieving process. You cannot be guided strictly by your emotions.
By incorporating these three secrets into your grieving process, you are apt to be able to work through your grief in a healthier manner. You will endure the challenges associated with grief. However, the process of grieving will be not only a healthy experience but one that can have some identifiable positive aspects as well.