Hello everybody, welcome to episode 141 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and today’s episode goes out to everyone out there who’s just looking to rebound from a tough time. The listener who sent in today’s question has been through two tough losses back to back and finds herself in search of motivation while grieving. Let’s talk about how to manage the grieving process and get back to our old selves in a healthy fashion…
QUESTION: “At a very high level, I’m rebuilding my life after learning my ex husband was living a double life and at the same time having the responsibility/ burden of cleaning my parent’s estate at the time of my father's death. I have been going to counseling, a life coach and lots of other places for personal development. It can be difficult to understand how to handle challenges when others place burdens on your life. Any suggestions on finding motivation to move forward after such big set backs?“
Motivation While Grieving or During Difficult Times
Ok, good question. Thank you for sending this in. Sounds like two dramatic changes have occurred in your life, and I don’t think anyone in your position would find it easy to reclaim a sense of motivation. I say this not only because you’ve found yourself in a very challenging, draining situation, but also because I’m not sure motivation even works that way.
The urge many of us face to shoot ourselves up with motivation in the times that we need it most (like right now) is normal, but it never quite works out that way. Rebuilding motivation is a slow and steady process, and demanding it to be otherwise is a way of not allowing yourself time to grieve or not accepting the hard times that you’ve fallen on.
Sure, no one wants to go through times like this, but getting good at life means getting good at suffering, not avoiding it all together. So let’s change the desire to rush out of this time and into motivation. It’s not going to happen with the snap of your fingers or by watching videos of motivational speakers yell at you.
Let’s instead focus on making the most of this tough time.
Acknowledge What You're Going Through
To me, we must dial back a bit and start by acknowledging what you’re going through. I very much appreciate how concise your question was structured, but as you walk around with this question in your mind each day, don’t skip over the tough stuff so quickly.
You won’t find normalcy by not leaning into and exploring the pain from your ex-husband’s betrayal. You won’t find normalcy by not leaning into and exploring the complexities of both losing your father and having to manage his estate.
I don’t know if the speediness with which you’ve composed this question reflects your actual feelings, but in the event that it does, it’s time to start spending more time with your hurt rather than trying to sweep it under the rug.
Acknowledge this time that you’re in. None of us are immune to significant setbacks. This is your turn and your time. And it will take time to get through it before the feelings from both these traumatic events start to fade.
So how are you going to spend it? I have some ideas.
How Have You Handled Other Times of Difficulty?
First, not only am I asking you to lean into this pain more, but I’m also going to ask you to think back to other times that you’ve found yourself facing huge setbacks and consider how you reacted then.
In retrospect, what were some good and healthy things you did while in recovery? And what were some bad ones?
Reflecting on this is a good way consciously learn from your past and keep track of how you’re recovering this time around. Certainly each setback is unique, but look for some patterns.
Did you spend a lot of time meditating last time you were set back? Maybe that attributed to a lot of your progress. Did you find yourself eating more unhealthy foods than usual last time you were set back? Maybe that prohibited you from healing as much as you could have.
Take note of these things and see if you’ve found yourself engaging in any of them this time around, and if so, how you can adjust that accordingly.
Find Your Support Systems
Second, this time of healing will also require you to talk with people, find support systems and keep people close to you.
What differentiates your current setback from many others is that you’ve recently experienced the loss of two major, major people in your life. Not only will this mean a lot of grieving, but it also means that your circle of people close to you has completely flipped.
Two major pieces of that puzzle are no longer there, and because we all need to feel loving support from others, I think it’s particularly important for you right now to keep others close to you. Don’t isolate yourself from other family members, close friends, and support groups. You’re going to want reminders that there are still people who love you in a major way and that you are not as alone as you may feel.
A Compassionate Male Presence
I also might add to this one (and take this with a grain of salt) that you may want to focus a little more on finding men right now who can support you. Not only men, of course, but having one or two. I’m talking about uncles, brothers, cousins or male friends more so than a new date, mind you. I only say this because a compassionate male presence might ease your transition from losing arguably the two most important males in your life.
Reconnect with Life Purpose
And finally, I’m going to turn to Viktor Frankl for my last recommendation. Frankl is a popular Austrian psychologist who penned Man’s Search For Meaning, a book chronicling the lessons he learned about life while facing imprisonment in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Frankl puts a lot of emphasis on leaning on life purpose in times of great suffering – reconnecting with that which makes us us and focusing on harvesting that.
While you all may have noticed my lukewarmness on the idea of life purpose in episodes past, I think the part of it that Frankl addresses is a lot healthier and more applicable for each of us. In your time of suffering, get back in touch with the parts of yourself that fuel love.
Motivation While Grieving Conclusion
Try to make time for all the things in your life that you find intrinsically beautiful and meaningful and keep your actions aligned with those. While the times you’ve found yourself in may justifiably keep you from focusing on this love and gratitude, you still retain an element of choice. You can and should spend the time you’re not grieving to remind yourself of all the beautiful things to live for. Maybe this is religion, maybe it’s other family or friends, maybe it’s your community, or anything in between.
Do not let this time deter you from remaining appreciative and dedicated to these things. While many of them are such constant, steady presences in your life that you may find yourself taking them for granted once in a while, perhaps the mundanity they sometimes seem to have is exactly why they’re so special. And it’s that kind of steady mundanity that will be a stepping stone into any surges of motivation that might come down the road.
What do you still have to live for that hasn’t changed? The celebration and recognition of these parts of your life can coexist with your grief, and they make grieving much more manageable.
To the woman who sent this question in on motivation while grieving, thank you again for doing so. There is no shame in taking our time during our struggles, no matter what your mind or those around you have to say about it. It’s ok to stay with your pain, establish a healthy relationship with it, and climb out one step at a time.
Now if you guys have questions about this or anything else that you’d like us to help you with on the show as we did today, you know you can email your inquiries to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Send them there, we’ll be in touch with you shortly after and get you some assistance long before the episode airs. Don’t be shy.
Thank you for being here through the end, thank you for your vulnerability and willingness to ask questions and support others who do, and I’ll look forward to talking to you all next time.