Strength and Resilience

Imagine you are a student within the medical profession sat in a lecture theatre listening to the keynote speaker:  He is telling the story of a woman whose husband came home early from work because he felt unwell. The GP visited giving a diagnosis of indigestion.  Hours later she calls for an ambulance.  He dies in the ambulance from a heart attack. He was thirty-six years old.

 She has no job, no income, a mortgage and bills to pay and four boys between the ages of six and ten to care for, whilst grieving for her much loved husband.   Years later she becomes very ill, but the many doctors treating her are unable to diagnose her condition, she continues to work and do the best she can; there is no other option.  Listening to the radio one day she hears a surgeon describe all the symptoms she is experiencing and realises she has chronic liver disease which may require a liver transplant (pioneering surgery at the time). Following yet another hospital admission the attending doctor (who she has never met before) refers her to a liver specialist, resulting in a consultation with the surgeon she heard on the radio.  The prognosis is poor; she is given 3 months to live unless she receives a donor liver, the surgery is high risk.  She goes home to discuss her options with her four boys.

There is silence in the lecture theatre, imagine feeling sad and choked as the story unfolds to suddenly realise that the keynote speaker is talking about your mother. You are part of the story, you were the six-year-old boy who lost his father, who watched his mother struggle against the odds to keep the family together, and who watched her health deteriorate.

Twenty eight years later he gives the eulogy at her funeral, recounting the childhood he remembered; full of struggles but filled with fun and laughter and respect for his mother. He does not feel that he missed out; it was the only life he knew. 

This is a true story and it highlights the strength and resilience that we as human beings have to get through the worst of situations. It is through reflection that we recognise our strength.

It is through reflection that we recognise our strength.

Where does this strength come from, what is it that keeps us going when everything appears to be falling down around us?

Many will read this and wonder how this marvellous woman had the strength to carry on and consider if they, given the same situation, would do the same.

As individuals, our lives unfold according to the way we perceive and believe in our story.  Our story is our past; believing how our story has affected us and bringing that belief into our future will be our outcome.  

A tragedy that occurred years ago is no longer a tragedy in the present, but many of us believe that we cannot overcome tragic situations, that those situations are the reasons for our current lot in life.  We are not broken by bad situations that occurred in the past and we are not broken in the present unless we think and believe that we are.

 The six-year-old and now adult in this story embraced the cards that he was dealt.  He has not judged the experience, it was all he knew.

How much of your story that you currently believe is no longer relevant in the here and now? Can you look back at your story to find resilience and strength?  You won’t have to look very hard.

Published date: October 2, 2019

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