The Courage to Thrive Despite Great Loss and Change

“Can you imagine flying over a war and you know you can never look down? You have to look forward, or you’ll never get home. What could be braver than this?” Grandfather to granddaughter Emilie (War Horse, DreamWorks, 2011)

Twenty-four-year old Aimee Copeland, the young woman who lost her hands, both feet and her entire right leg to flesh-eating bacteria last spring tells us to “love life” and dislikes being called disabled. Katie Couric’s talk show. Fifteen-year-old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousufzai, shot in the head by the Taliban last spring for voicing her opposition to the ban of education on women, continues to inspire people throughout the world by her resilience (ABC News 11/12/2012). And, injured U. S. Navy Lieutenant Bradley Snyder who lost his sight in an explosion in Afghanistan recently took the Gold Medal at the Paralympics this past summer in London, England.

People, like Aimee, Malala, and Lt. Snyder represent the spirit of what it means to be a human being. They act with courage, imagination, intention and forethought, and have the ability to adapt and adjust to circumstances with regard to the meaning and purpose they give to their life pursuits. By any measure, they are hardy personalities; they possess attitudes and skills, and a resourcefulness of personality, that allow them to thrive and turn adversity into an opportunity to learn, grow, and forge new dreams.

You might call them, warhorses ~ strong in constitution, spirit and faith, and cut out, by nature, to take risks and to overcome great challenges. Consider 15-year-old Malala Yousufzai who took on the Taliban, for example. Prior to coming into harm’s way, she was speaking out against woman’s oppression in Pakistan. 24-year-old Aimee Copeland was zip lining as a sport and Lt. Bradley Snyder was a military bomb explosion technician. Their warhorse natures are apparent, from the start.

But, not all of us are cut out to be warhorses. We don’t appear to be especially capable of managing life’s toughest battles. We’ve been groomed to be plow horses, so to speak, like Joey of Spielberg’s 2011 epic film called the War Horse (DreamWorks, 2011). If you’re a plow horse, you’ve learned how to cultivate life from the structures already provided to you. This doesn’t mean that your life has been easy; rather, the stresses you face are common to everyday living. Like many people, you were meant to tend to responsibilities that keep your life running smoothly, realize goals, and to solve normal living problems.

Modern culture prepares few of us to cope physically, mentally and spiritually with the great loss and wreckage that can come from natural disaster, mass shootings, and war. But, the good news is that there is a warhorse spirit inside of you, even if you haven’t had to call upon it yet. Believe me, I have seen this resilient, hardy spirit come forth in people who are facing devastating financial ruin, life-altering health conditions, and the death of a child or other loved one. The courage, strength, and resourcefulness that resides inside of them is nothing less than amazing. It resides in you as well.

Don’t Look Back, Look Forward

Thus, when tough times hit, you have to adopt a resilient, hardy stance, to rise to the level of a warhorse in body, mind, and spirit. Your behavior will follow. The resilient mindset that follows is from my 2012 New Year’s Day post (Don’t Look Back, Look Forward, Khoshaba 2011) that was inspired by Steven Spielberg’s movie the War Horse (DreamWorks, December, 2011). Whatever it is that you are handling right now, if you need more strength of will and inner spirit, let the five commitments that follow guide you.

  1. Commit to Be a War Horse In Your Mind’s Eye. Develop a hardy attitude toward your troubles, and I assure you resilient coping will follow (The Courage to Grow From Stress, Psychology Today). You have to strengthen your resolve to endure hard times and muster up the courage and attitudes that will help you to grow from stressful times. See yourself in body, mind and spirit as a resilient person. You will find an inner strength and determination that will push you to thrive, despite the nature and intensity of your loss. Believe that being involved with activities, tasks, and people is the best way to heal and to regain meaning and purpose. This is the Hardy Attitude of Commitment.
  2. Challenge Yourself. To thrive in hard times, you may have to learn new skills, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Perhaps, this means that you have to learn a new skill to get work, live in more modest circumstances, or adjust to life, emotionally and spiritually, without a loved family member. Whatever your circumstance, challenge yourself to rise above the details of what is happening and commit yourself, wholeheartedly, to surviving, no matter what it takes. You may not be able to see it right now, but there is something of value to be learned by this negative experience. Open your heart to discovering it. This is the Hardy Attitude of Challenge.
  3. Stay in Tune with Your Most Basic Nature. No matter what is happening to you, honor who you really are and be brave enough to go with, rather than against, your true nature. You are first and foremost a psychological and spiritual being. Your spirit is meant to thrive, despite hard circumstances. There is something unique about your talents and capabilities that can see you through stressful conditions. Perhaps, you are creative and imaginative, have good organizational skill or possess psychological understandings that help to strengthen your resourcefulness. If you capitalize on your abilities, you will see new pathways of change. Go with what is most natural to you. This is how you will heal and find your way back to life.
  4. Care for Yourself.  When you are stressed, it’s easy to let self-care fall to the wayside. Value and care for yourself daily, no matter how hard life becomes for you. Treat yourself well, as if you were caring for a thoroughbred. Get the rest, nutrition, support and love you need, to cope with your loss. This will help you to endure and to find the strength to solve problems that move you forward in life.
  5.  Don’t look down, Look forward. Do not let your present circumstances cause you to lose hope for a better future or your grief, hurt, and resentment stop you from healing. Your purpose is to make it through this hard time having learned much about your ability to endure life’s journey and make the best of it.  You have the power and resources to influence the direction and outcome of what has happened to you. This is the Hardy Attitude of Control.

Indeed, the will to survive is much greater than the desire to give up on life. People like Aimee Copeland, Malala Yousufzai, and Lt. Bradley Snyder show us that the will to survive is greater than our fears and resistances. No matter the depth of your loss, there is always something important and worthwhile enough about your life, to find the courage to keep going.

Let me take a moment today to acknowledge the victims and survivors of the recent mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. May God protect the hearts of the parents and loved ones of the 20 deceased children and seven adults during this sad and difficult time and help them to heal and to find their ways back to life again. And, may the deceased victims rest in God’s loving arms and in peace. We are mourning, with you, and pray for your healing.

If you enjoyed my article today, please say so by selecting the Like icon that immediately follows. And, if you’d like others people to know about this post, Tweet or Google +1 it. Happy Holidays friends. Warmly, Deborah.


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18 Responses to “The Courage to Thrive Despite Great Loss and Change”

  1. avatar Amy Green says:

    WOW Dr Deborah- your words were both and really absorbed. With everything going on in the world today- as well personal stress this article was very helpful
    Again, Thank You Dr

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Thank you Amy, yes, there is so much loss, change and stress going on worldwide that we need to know that we have the ability to survive. Amy, I heard something on the news today that I really loved. It was regarding the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. “Our hearts are broken, but our spirit is strong.”

      So glad to see you here today. Thank you for your ongoing friendship and support. Warmly Deborah.

  2. avatar Florence U says:

    This is a great article which I will bookmark to share with others. Courage is the lesson that God has been teaching me in the last two weeks and the buzzword He has given me to prosper in 2013. My last two posts cover the lessons I mentioned in brief detail but the I am learning to live in their simple truths everyday.

    Thank you for sharing such magnificent examples to encourage us.


    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Shalom Florence, thank you for visiting my site. I’m glad that you found this article helpful. I look forward to visiting your site too. I don’t know what happened, but I’m glad courage is in your heart and mind. Have a blessed 2013 Florence. Hope to see you soon, here. Warmly Deborah.

  3. This is a great stance you elaborate, Deborah. Hardiness is the only real answer for people, like us, who are living in turbulent, changing times. Thanks so much for your insights!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah says:

      Hello Dr. Sal, thank you for the kind words. I’m so glad that I have your hardiness concepts, research and practice to share with the world. Thank you for your tireless work in giving people what they need to thrive. Warmly Dr. Deborah.

  4. avatar jagdesh kumar says:

    This is really helpful to feel stress free..Thank you so much…..

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Dr. and Happy New Year. I’m glad the post offered useful suggestions to cope with stress. You are very welcome. Have a blessed new year. Warmly, Deborah.

  5. avatar Samar Bhatti says:

    Thank you very much Dr. for sharing polite and valuable information with us. Being a student of Psychology, it’s really helpful for me. Courage and steadfastness are essential to move forward in life. I think ‘grace under pressure’ is the other name of courage. The approach adopted by you is magnificent, which helps the reader to comprehend the very situation of today-life.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Samar, sorry for the delay in responding to you. I’m glad this article is helpful to you. I really like that you add the idea of grace to courage. There is dignity and grace in deciding to thrive, despite tough times. Thank you for stopping by. Look forward to your comments in the future. Warmly Deborah.

  6. avatar Zerevan M Xalid says:

    Thank you no end. You are making continuous efforts to help people all around the world psychologically who lost their hope, poise and balance to once again regain their inner equilibrium. I hope your articles will herald a new , successful and substantial thing for people throughout and I wish you all success.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Happy New Year, Zerevan. Your kind words greeted me this new year morning. To help to you and others to regain their equilibrium from hard times is so fulfilling to me. Thank you. I look forward to seeing you here again. Warm regards Zerevan. Deborah.

      • avatar Zerevan M Xalid says:

        You’re most welcome.

        Happy 2013 to you and your family. I hope with the coming of this year, peace , reconciliation and happiness can be evolved once again and last forever.^_^ ^_^

  7. avatar Mohammed says:

    i already bookmarked the page… its a good resource material for sessions on motivations in youth leadership and development .

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Mohammed, I’m glad you find this post helpful for your work. Thank you. Looking forward to seeing you here again soon. Warmly Deborah.

  8. avatar Louis IV says:

    Thanks Deborah, i feel a driving force to move on and learn any valuable lessons. Still i have to read it again tomorrow, the message gotta sink in me..again and again. Even a diamond has to be polished to shine.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      You are so right Louis IV, we are like diamonds–we have to polish daily with good messages to ourselves so we can shine. You take good care and let me know how you are doing. Warmly Deborah.


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