Grace and Victory Counseling

The Power of Your Story: Resilience & Finding Meaning

I like stories, especially the ones that are rooted in difficult, challenging, and painful circumstances yet have a happy ending. They always bring a smile or tears to my face. These stories give me hope about the ability of people to face life challenges.
 There are also personal stories that do not necessarily have the happy ending that we hope for. However, the protagonist of these stories continues living life with hope, joy, and strength. How is that possible?  I honestly think that it has to do with how you tell your story to yourself and others, how you re-frame your circumstances, and how you find meaning in the middle of pain.
Let us look at these three different behaviors and attitudes:


1. Telling your story to yourself and others
Our narrative is strongly connected to our thoughts and beliefs. The way you tell your story to yourself and others has an impact on how you make sense of the events that are happening to you. For example, if you have been trying to lose weight for many years and you have never been able to reach your goal, what are you telling yourself? Are you telling yourself: “I will never be able to lose weight”, “I am a failure”, “I don’t have hope”? This narrative could become the reason why you stop trying to accomplish your goal. Personally, when my husband and I were trying to get pregnant, our narrative was very positive. There was not any reason to believe that we were going to face difficulties in staying pregnant. My narrative changed immediately once I started facing challenges, and it took a lot of time, counseling, and self-care to change it to a more meaningful and empowering narrative that would allow me to face our realities. Your narrative about your story is usually automatic and we rarely stop to think about what kind of story we are telling ourselves.

2. Re-framing your circumstances 
What are other explanations for what is happening to you? What are some other ways in which you can look at your current difficult situation? I experienced five early pregnancy losses in a time frame of five years. It was one of the hardest experiences of my life. However, during this time, I re-framed the pregnancy losses as an opportunity for me to know how my body needed to be healed. I also look at my pain as an opportunity to learn more about myself, my relationship with my husband, my relationship with others, and my relationship with God. Re-framing didn’t take away my grief and my pain but allowed me to keep going with hope and strength. When we feel hopeless it is good to re-frame our circumstances to find hope.

3. Finding meaning in the middle of your sorrow 
This is not an easy or fast process, and usually is the culmination of a lot of inner work over a long period. Finding meaning is the ultimate engine for a life purpose. I remember the time when I was working through my grief with my therapist. I already had my two children, and I was trying to find meaning in all my losses. My therapist asked me to write a letter to my babies in which I thank them for what they gave to me and my life. Just thinking about it right now makes me want to cry out of gratitude and love because I realized at that point that I had so many reasons to thank my babies. Of course, I wish they were here on earth with me, however, through losing them I have been able to find my purpose in life which is helping others! I am also fortunate to have my son and my daughter in my life. My son was my fourth pregnancy, and my daughter was adopted after our fifth loss. I was so grateful that I realized how I became stronger during this difficult time.

How can you connect your pain to a purpose? What do you wish someone would have done for you when you were experiencing difficult circumstances? I  invite you to look around you, to listen to people’s stories, and find out how they found meaning and purpose as a result of pain. These people are making a difference in other people’s lives. They are stronger than they thought they were, and they were able to develop resilience. You can do the same because you are worth it.

 From my heart to yours,

Ana Baratta, Ph.D., LPC.
www.graceandvictorycounseling.com

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