The past year has certainly been brimming with challenges. Given the COVID-19 Pandemic, social and political unrest, confusion, uncertainty, and the staggering loss of loved ones, we could almost feel hope melting away like ice cream on a blistering hot day.
But even more important than preserving that ice cream and preventing it from melting into the ground, it’s vital that we mindfully generate fresh hope. When we’re struggling due to difficult changes in life, it’s profoundly helpful to keep this acronym in mind: HOPE!
Why? Because it helps us remember four important habits of HOPEfor healthy coping:
H– Honor your feelings that emerge and respect their purpose. Every grief experience deserves acknowledgement to help ease the way. This doesn’t mean we deny feelings, give up, or give in to painful emotions by isolating or withdrawing from important functions of our life. It does mean that we allow ourselves to feel them, even if they’re completely foreign or painfully intense. By allowing them to be felt, they have a more natural cessation point and the capability of providing important insights for our future lives.
O– Openness to new experiences, people, and ways of navigating forward helps bring periods of calm, peacefulness, joyfulness, and yes, hopefulness. When we purposefully keep ourselves open to options (even when we’re not in the mood), we have more opportunity for pleasant surprises that elevate our spirits and improve our energy. Openness can lead to laughter, music, creativity, and gratitude. Openness is indeed an important habit of hope capable of producing positives out of negatives.
P– Persevering even when we feel like giving up helps us gain trust in our capabilities for overcoming adversity, solving problems, and discovering we can still function even during difficult transitions and losses. Persevere means to persist in anything undertaken in spite of difficulties or obstacles. Think about times you’ve seen sunrays. What do they have in common? They are all made possible by an obstacle. Obstacles such as mountains, clouds, or trees are all examples of what can make sunrays possible when they block the sun. Think of persevering as your special way of overcoming obstacles to allow the sunrays into your life.
E– Encouraging ourselves to discover our inner resources helps us take needed actions even when we feel afraid or uncertain. Encourage means to inspire with courage or confidence. At each phase of transition, the only certainty is uncertainty. It is best to think of courage and fear as two sides of the same coin. Courage is not possible without fear. Picture courage and fear when you read this poem:
The path to courage is blazed by fear;
We can’t have one unless the other’s near.
With devotion, then, toward each we’ll steer;
Embracing both and holding them dear.
By remembering the four habits of HOPE: Honor – Open – Persevere – Encourage – you’ll find new degrees of trust in your ability to find new HOPE throughout life’s many transitions.
The Pandemic gave rise to several poetic verses in me that made their way into my book, Rays ofHope: Lighting the Way in Life’s Transitions and Losses. Insights about the adjustments we all made along the way demonstrated to me that the many conditions of these transitions were all reminders that we’d never been promised our familiar comforts couldn’t melt away. Yes, like the ice cream on a blistering hot day. I know I’ll always think of HOPE differently given the lessons brought with the Pandemic.
It was once a wish, a love, or an aim.
Holding tight didn’t assure a forever claim,
To familiar comforts, with nothing changed,
Of never having to be rearranged.
Amidst the turmoil, along came new hope.
Slowly nudging us up the steep slope,
Of coping with loss and changed conditions,
Lighting the way for our new life’s transitions.
Hope is always near. We must persevere in finding the gifts of our inner courage to search for new hopes when we’ve lost ones that we thought would be with us forever. Nature reminds us of the power of obstacles that create beautiful sunrays that light the way when we remain open to lessons it can teach us.