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Advice for Difficult Times
November 3, 2014 | Laura Putre; excerpted from Thrivent magazine
Thrivent members share thoughts on surviving adversity
Cancer. A car accident. A financial crisis. So much, and yet so little, can derail a life. But, as cliché as it may be, what throws us off the track can also force us to make significant – and positive – changes in our lives.
"So often we're so busy attending to our activities of daily living, we forget to stop and think about life's meaning," says Dr. Tanya Edwards, medical director for the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. "Having a major health challenge usually will knock people off their feet and give them the opportunity to stop and think about the meaning of life and what's really important."
Dr. Mel Jacob, the executive director of Lutheran Counseling Services in Winter Park, Florida, and a former church pastor, says that when he first meets with a patient who's just been dealt a blow like a serious illness, his first job is to listen. "It takes a while to realize what's left, much less to assess what it is that can be built from what remains," he says. "And out of that can grow discoveries, new possibilities and different ways of seeing yourself."
He also encourages patients to stay connected with the people who care for them and focus on what they can do versus what it is they can't do. "You can't rebuild your house in one week," he says. "But you can clean up or start to clean up."
Dr. Detlev Erdmann, a reconstructive plastic surgeon at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, has seen many patients with major burn trauma, as well as significant limb injuries that require amputation. Those who go on to lead productive lives after their injuries tend to have supportive families as well as a belief in both themselves and God, he says.
Erdmann recalls a patient he had a year or so ago, a farmer in his forties whose right leg got caught in a machine that drills holes in the ground. Though the man lost the leg, he planned on continuing to farm. "I was impressed how well he did psychologically," says Erdmann.
The doctor says the farmer having family by his side made the idea of going back to his old life possible. "His wife was with him all the time, being optimistic and caring and understanding," says Erdmann. The extended family took care of their two children, cooking meals and getting them off to school and making sure their routines stayed as normal as possible.
Perhaps the best advice comes from those who have been there. Thrivent members Ricky Trione, Richard Hunter, and Derrick and Cindy Wright each faced adversity – from blindness to a traumatic brain injury. Here is their best advice for surviving challenging times:
- Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.
- When your thoughts are chaotic and you can't find answers on your own, take a deep breath and let God take over.
- Be open to new opportunities and different ways of thinking.
- Focus on what you can do, rather than what you cannot do.
- Seek out and take full advantage of social programs, counseling and other resources in the community that can help you, whether they're affiliated with the church, government or a nonprofit organization.
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