When Plan A Isn’t an Option

In this issue:

What happens when life doesn't go the way you've planned, when your plan A is no longer part of the picture? It's hard to embrace plan B, and maybe we don't like it at all, but resilience has a lot to do with how we frame our thinking. In this issue, we talk about facing adversity, finding hope, and discovering resilience.




Inspired Life: Facing Adversity and Grief

The heart of my writing and speaking is helping people discover gems in the midst of life's difficulties. Life is hard. Sometimes, circumstances outside of our control leave us on a path that looks nothing like what we had planned. A loss of any kind is a blow that can change the course of our future. Sometimes we can be so resilient and other times we feel powerless, and whenever we have a challenge, our resilience might not be immediately evident. It's really a process of getting to a place of joy again after a terrible loss.

I recently ready the book Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg. (Keep on scrolling to find the link to it in the resources section below.) Sheryl's story moved me. She was on vacation with her husband and a bunch of friends, when he collapsed and died during a workout at the resort gym. Life as Sheryl knew it stopped. In the book, she writes about her journey through grief and how she learned to live again after losing the love of her life.

If you haven't experienced adversity and you aren't grieving right now, this is your opportunity to learn how to be a good friend to someone else. Sheryl talks in her book about how some friends responded with her husband Dave died. Some were helpful. Some, in their awkwardness, essentially abandoned her. Some said unhelpful things. Her loss was the elephant in the room in so many situations after Dave's death.

Sometimes others expect us to act a certain way after a loss, and I want us all to examine whether or not we have let others process their loss as they need to. Have we let them experience the support they need, rather than judging, or blaming, or ignoring their struggle?

If you're in the middle of a difficult time, remember that others might be so busy with their own life that they don't see your pain. Heartbreaking, but true.

We need to speak up and ask for help. I know, that's hard. But it is important to be real with people about our feelings and our struggles. That might mean we have to reach out to them. Yes, in a perfect world people would notice our pain and reach out to us. But let's give them grace in their own overwhelm and see that they might not have the margin in their lives to even notice our struggle. Let's all be human!

Be real with our struggles.

Be honest about our hurt and pain.

Mutually love and support one another in our grief.

That's the path to resilience.


Life, Repurposed: 3 Ways to Process Plan B 

If you're living plan B, or as Sheryl calls it Option B, let's look at some tips for finding repurposed life, or resilience. I like to do fancy writer stuff, like use acrostics, so let's make it the ABCs.

A - Acknowledge your feelings. Be honest about how you feel! Stuffing it down is not resilience. That wound will reopen every time someone says the wrong thing, or your thoughts drift to pain. Journaling can be a great way to process your feelings. I talked about Mary Potter Kenyon's book in episode 2. Mary's book, Expressive Writing for Healing: Journal Your Way from Grief to Hope is a wonderful resource for this!

You might also process with friends or with a counselor. However you acknowledge your feelings, it's important to let it out and be okay with that.

B - Be honest with others. If you're not fine, why tell people you're fine? I know. I do this myself! This has to do with more than just how we feel. What if you need help with something? It's ok to be honest and ask for help, rather than pretending you have everything covered. Yes, it's work to go into the detail of telling people your struggle. But be authentic with the people who are close to you. Of course, I don't recommend dumping our story on everyone we meet - like the clerk at the grocery store - but with the people who care about us, let's be honest.

In an ideal world, people would see our need and reach out to us, but others might be hiding their own pain and can hardly function. W don't know. Maybe they aren't being honest either. It's ok to tell people we are not ok.

C- Change what you can. I did think about having the C stand for coffee, but that's so shallow of me. So here it is. Change what you can. You can't change the past. Unless you have a DeLorean and can go back in the future...or is that back in the past? You can't change other people or their responses either. We can't fix people. But we can change how we respond to them - how we respond to what happens to us. We can change ourselves. If a relationship is toxic, you can press the pause button if you need to do that. If a certain situation always raise the stress bar, do you need to continue putting yourself in it?

It's hard to embrace plan B, and maybe we don't like it at all, but resilience has a lot to do with how we frame our thinking. Even if we are a victim, we don't have to let that circumstance ruin us forever or take over every thought we ever have. Sheryl talked in her book about feeling guilty the first time she laughed again after Dave died. But she learned that it was part of moving forward - learning to laugh again and live again.


Recommended Resources 

In the podcast, I talked about Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. I first heard Sheryl share her story from stage at a leadership summit, and even though Sheryl's isn't an expressly biblical worldview, I found her perspective really helpful. Sheryl is the chief operating officer at Facebook and a highly successful woman. But after the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl had to figure out how to live again. She felt certain that she would never feel pure joy again. She writes with friend, Adam Grant, who is a psychologist and professor at Wharton. In this book, Sheryl's real-life insights blend with Adam's research on finding strength in the face of adversity.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy is applicable to anyone who is grieving over a loss. That might be the loss of someone you love, a job, a dream or a goal, violence, natural disasters and more. It's about finding resilience when it feels as if there is no hope.

One of the reasons I like this book and recommend it, even though it doesn't present a Christian, biblical framework, is that I think this is a great place to start for anyone who needs to start the journey toward hope, but who isn't in a place to include biblical ideas in that process yet. "But isn't the Bible the first source of hope?" you might ask.

Yes! I believe that with all of my heart. But I'm also not foolish enough to believe that everybody loves it as much as I do. I have discovered through my own experience and through others' experiences that the door to faith might eventually open, even if someone is closed to God and not on board with the idea of giving their life to Jesus at this very moment. I believe there are steps toward healing, and I do not want to push people aside if their path hasn't yet merged with a biblical one, even though that's the path I have chosen. This might be the open door in a heart that has been hardened and broken by grief. And then, maybe the conversation about faith could happen.

My source of hope in this life is Jesus. I can't imagine life without him, without conversations with and comfort from the Holy Spirit. But this memoir has lessons for all of us. Grief is common to being human. That's where I connect with Sheryl and her story - on a human level.

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If you're looking for faith-based resources on this topic, here are a few to consider:

It's Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered

Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?

Love Life Again: Finding Joy When Life Is Hard

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(Please note: books posted here on my blog are purely because I want to share them. Sometimes I receive free copies for review, and other times I purchase the books. Some I get from the library. Either way, any endorsement I offer here on the blog is simply because I want to talk about the book. ) *This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. I sell my ebook via Amazon but I’m also a part of their “Associates” (i.e. affiliate) program which pays a commission on books and any other Amazon products people purchase via my links.

Michelle Rayburn is the author of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure, as well as a small group Bible study to accompany the book. Learn more about these and her other books here. A sample chapter of the book and Bible study are available for free download.

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This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. I sell my ebook via Amazon but I’m also a part of their “Associates” (i.e. affiliate) program which pays a commission on books and any other Amazon products people purchase via my links.

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