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Three words you never want to hear


What is it you never want to hear?

“I’ve got cancer”. Three of the most terrifying words a loved one can say to you. 

Sadly, a couple of weeks ago I heard these words for the second time in my life. Almost 16 years ago, it was my Mum saying them, this time it was my Dad. If there was ever a time to need every ounce of resilience you have, every strength, skill, and coping mechanism, it’s when your parent – or of course any loved one – says these words to you.

When mum said those words to me it was like all the air had been sucked out of the room and someone simultaneously hit me in the stomach. I couldn’t hear properly and felt as though the ground was shifting under me – which was pretty apt because my world shifted forever on that day.

When dad said the same words to me last week it was strangely different. None of those things happened and I asked all the right questions and said all the right things in a very matter of fact way. When dad left I did feel a little out of sorts, off kilter, and mostly guilty for not feeling more. I spent the next few days going about things as usual, doing the school run, doing the supermarket shop, but I’d find myself stood staring at something for ages and redoing the same thing over and over, until I realised that it was my apparent lack of emotion that was bothering me and I was mulling it over at every opportunity. Why was I less emotional about dad?

There’s a whole load of stuff that’s happened – or hasn’t happened! - between me and my dad since mum died, which I won’t go into, that has meant we’re not as close as we once were but mostly I think I’ve just built up my resilience. The experience of losing my mum in such a short period of time (12 weeks) meant that I knew what to expect, I already had coping mechanisms in place, and perhaps most importantly of all, I’m now a mum.

What is Resilience?

Resilience is our ability to keep functioning and ‘roll with the punches’ when faced with trauma, grief, and stress etc. Of course you still experience the feelings of pain and anger but you’re able to carry on, not just physically but psychologically too. It’s not about being tough or being stoic, you don’t just brave it out. In fact, reaching out to others when you need support is a key part of being resilient.

How does Resilience Help?

Resilience gives us the ability to see past your problems and work through them, it allows us to continue to find happiness and enjoyment in our lives whilst still dealing with those problems and stresses. If you’re not as resilient as you’d perhaps like to be it is possible to develop your resilience skills.

How can you build your Resilience?

“Pain comes to all of us in life,” says David Sabine, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Wichita Falls, Texas. “What I see resilient people do is immediately look at the problem and say, ‘What’s the solution to that? What is this trying to teach me?’ Looking at pain as an opportunity to learn and problem-solve — and building the confidence and the habit of moving toward the pain instead of running from it — goes a long way in terms of building resiliency.”

Whilst I understand the negative emotions I’m feeling, at the same time it’s important for me to keep positive where possible. Look for the silver linings, live in the moment, spend time with the people you love most, who build you up and support you. Also, try to keep your sense of humour. I’m lucky that I have quite a dark sense of humour but you must keep laughing, keep living your life – particularly if you have children – now more than ever you need to remember that we have one life and it’s a relatively short one in the grand scheme of things, so make the most of it. It’s what your loved one wants you to do anyway, so don’t feel guilty.

Fortunately it seems that there are far more options available to dad than there was for mum, so we keep moving forward, taking each step at a time and dealing with each stage as best we can. Because what’s the alternative?

Building resilience


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