Resiliency. This term has definitely increased in popularity. I love this word. I see such resiliency in my two daughters who are pictured here on top of Pike’s Peak! What does it mean to be resilient? In Psychology Today, Resilience is defined as “that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.”
Do you know anyone in your life that fits this definition? Do you feel that you are resilient? One of my hopes and prayers for my two daughters and I is definitely that we will be resilient women! I also hope and pray that we will learn from all of the wonderful people in our lives that are resilient.
As I listened to the State of the Union this past week, I was inspired by the faces of resiliency that were highlighted. No matter who our President is that is giving the speech, this is always my favorite part. I love to see who they highlight and to hear their stories of why they have been chosen to be honored by our nation’s leader. I love to hear how the people that have been chosen truly demonstrate resiliency in their lives. I am truly inspired by them.
I was so in awe of Mr. Ji Seong-ho’s story. Seong-ho was a boy who was starving in North Korea and tried to steal coal from a train that he was going to use to try to get a little bit of food with. He was so exhausted from hunger that he passed out on the train tracks. A train ran over him, and he had to undergo amputations without anything to help him with his pain. He was later tortured by authorities in North Korea after he came back from a short visit from China. While he was being tortured, he was being asked if he had met any Christians. He had. Mr. Ji Seong-ho later traveled thousands of miles throughout Southeast Asia and China on crutches to become free. A lot of his family members were following him, and his father was caught while trying to obtain his own freedom and was tortured to death. Seong-ho now lives in Seoul and helps to rescue others who are trying to defect and broadcasts into North Korea. Seong-ho has a new leg. After the President finished telling his story, Seong-ho was powerfully holding those crutches in the air that he traveled so many miles to freedom with. Tears were pouring down my face as I listened to his story. What a true overcomer! As I watched him hold his crutches up, I could not imagine a more powerful picture of resiliency. Thank you Seong-ho for sharing your unbelievable life and for now trying to help others!! What an incredible story of resiliency!
American firefighter David Dahlberg was honored as well. David rescued 60 children who were trapped at a California summer camp that were threatened by wildfires. David “faced down walls of fire” to rescue these children! Thank you David for your service and making such a difference in so many lives! American Coast Guard Petty Officer Ashlee Leppert was on one of the first helicopters that arrived in Houston during Hurricane Harvey. As she endured 18 hours of rain and wind, she helped save more than 40 lives despite the deep water and live power lines! Thank you Ashlee for your service and making a difference in so many lives!! Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Celestino Martinez who served in the the Air Force for 15 years and then became an ICE agent has now spent the past 15 years battling dangerous criminals on our streets and battling gang violence. Even though MS-13 leaders ordered his murder, he has continued to try to keep us safe. His team has arrested nearly 400 gang members including more than 220 from MS-13. Thank you CJ for your service and for making such a difference to keep people safe! These are heroes that inspire my heart!!
A truly heartwarming story was told by our President about a 12-year-old boy named Preston Sharp who lives in Redding, California. On Veterans Day, Preston noticed that Veterans’ graves did not have flags marking their graves. Preston started a movement that so far has placed 40,000 flags at Veterans’ graves. Way to honor true heroes Preston! How much we can learn from this remarkable 12-year-old boy!! Hopefully, as we hear these inspiring stories and all of the others then we will be encouraged to be resilient in our own lives.
Tragically, we heard the stories of three families who had lost their children. I was crying so hard as I was listening to the stories of these three sets of parents who had to bury their children. Nothing hurts my heart more than hearing of parents burying their children after having to bury my only son 4 ½ years ago. Otto Wambier’s story was shared. Otto was the student from the University of Virginia who was on his way to study abroad in Asia when he joined a tour to North Korea. Otto was arrested and charged with crimes against the state. Otto was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. Last June, Otto was returned to our country after being seriously injured and in critical condition. Tragically, Otto passed away shortly after he had come home. My heart grieves for Otto’s family and for the unbelievable pain and suffering that he was forced to endure and that his family is now carrying.
We also heard the story of two teenage girls from Long Island who were brutally murdered in September 2016 while walking. Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens were killed on the eve of Nisa’s 16th birthday by MS-13 gang members who were from their high school. I listened in horror to these stories of two sets of parents who had to bury their children. As Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado, and Robert Mickens stood and listened as the President described their daughter’s murders, the grief and pain were screaming from the balcony. I watched as tears poured down their faces. I saw their bodies trembling and how they were racked with pain. I watched as they tried to remain steady to be able to stand in honor of their daughters.
Otto’s parents, Fred and Cindy Wambier and his brother and sister Austin and Greta were there as Otto’s story was told and as he was honored. Otto’s family was there to honor him, and the grief and pain poured out from his family as well. Heartbreaking, tragic, devastating losses for these families. I was so thankful that their children were honored by our country, but my heart breaks for the indescribable pain and loss that these three families are suffering. I saw their resiliency as they stood to honor their children despite their immense pain and suffering.
It is so good for all of us to hear the stories of resilient people and to learn from their experiences and to witness how they were able to rise up and overcome their own tragedies. It is also beneficial for us to stop and reflect on who are the resilient people in our own lives. After my husband died from a tragic accident at work in August 2011 and my only son was instantly killed at the age of 18 in a car accident in June 2013, then I have two faces of resiliency in my own life that have been a beacon of light and a source of true hope and joy as I have been traveling my grief journey. The two faces of resiliency in my life are those of my two incredible daughters, Kylee and MiKayla. The pain and suffering that these two beautiful girls of mine have endured has hurt my heart beyond words. Kylee who is now 21 and is a junior at her university lost her dad at age 14 and her big brother at the age of 16. MiKayla who is now 18 and is a senior in high school lost her dad at age 11 and her big brother at the age of 13. As I have watched them and tried to help them to heal, grow, and thrive then I have seen so many incredible gifts in each of them. They are not just survivors as I believe they are true overcomers. They have continued to press on and do their best in every area of their lives from their academic careers to their sports careers. I have witnessed first- hand much emotional healing, and while none of us have “arrived” they have made tremendous progress in dealing with the effects and pain of the traumas that they have been forced to endure at very young ages. I have had the privilege of watching them grow in empathy and compassion for others. I have witnessed their renewed hope and how they are rebuilding their faith. These are the two most important and inspiring faces of resiliency in my life.
In Resilience: The Capacity to Rebuild and Grow from Adversity by Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D., she shared that “children learn to succeed by overcoming obstacles.” She also shared that “Resilience is not a genetic trait. It is derived from the ways children learn to think and act when they are faced with obstacles, large and small.” What a gift we can give to our own children and to those young people that we are surrounded with in helping them to learn to do these very things… to think and act when they are faced with obstacles, large and small. So often we want to do this for them. What a tremendous gift that we can give to young people in helping them to learn these skills!
Nan Henderson, M.S.W. went in to the community in search of young people whose lives demonstrated “resiliency in action”. She would ask them open ended questions about their lives and their overcoming of adversity and about advice that they wanted to share with others. She said that the key things that were identified were the following: caring and high expectations, someone who will not give up on them, and caring adults outside of the family. As I reflect back on the years of working with many youth that were hurting and in crisis then I can think of many youth that I know that have risen above their circumstances. It also reminds me of the importance of Nan’s findings… caring and high expectations and not giving up on someone are so key when we have those in our lives who are hurting and in crisis. Let us give those priceless gifts to them!!
From Trauma Recovery, the Manitoba Trauma Information and Education Centre created by Klinic shared something that I believe with all of my heart. They said: “Focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses is a basic tenant of recovery, however for people who have experienced trauma this can be very difficult and part of what is wounded in the trauma. There is a tendency to see themselves as inherently weak due to their experiences. Beginning to see yourself from a strengths-based perspective is part of the process toward healing. Shifting your view of trauma as an injury shifts the perspective/belief away from “sickness’ to “impact” and moves the conversation away from “what is wrong with you” to “what has happened to you” It is also important to have the awareness that people who have experienced trauma can go on to not only “survive” the trauma but also experience what has been identified in the literature as “Post Traumatic Growth”. Understanding that this is possible is an important element that contributes to fostering hope.” Oh what truth is described here!! I love these words!!
They also share a very key component: “It is important not to minimize the impact of the trauma in an effort to promote post traumatic growth. This is not always the outcome for individuals who have experienced trauma and it’s important not to imply any failure or minimize the impact of the trauma. It is also important to be aware that even in the presence and development of post traumatic growth it doesn’t mean that there is an absence of distress. Both can occur simultaneously.” As I look back at these last several years at my two daughters’ journeys and my journey, I can most definitely see this. There has absolutely been distress, but I am so thankful that we all have certainly experienced growth. I hope that we continue to grow and learn for the rest of our lives!!
“Everyone has a right to have a present and future that are not completely dominated and dictated by the past” Karen Saakvitne
David B. Feldman, Ph.D. Lee Daniel Kravetz in July 1, 2014 share in Super Survival of the Fittest “On the spectrum of trauma survivorship, people fall anywhere between hiding under a rock and rock stardom. We’re not praising the bright side of tragedy. No trauma is good. Every trauma involves suffering. But it’s important to understand that resilience is possible. Of the many lessons that supersurvivors have to teach us, the biggest one may be that it’s possible to peer into the face of tragedy and somehow emerge fundamentally changed, with an ability to affect the world in previously unimaginable ways.” I love what they shared here! I most definitely do not want to hide under a rock, and my heart sure hopes to have an ability to positively affect those around me!! This makes me think of my new friend that I have gotten to know through my friend who is her sister. While discussing the recent death of her husband and her own journey that she was traveling, she said,
“I don’t want to just survive! I want to thrive!”
I love these words!! How I hope that for each one of us! I hope and pray that as we work on our own healing and growth that we too will also be faces of resiliency. I hope that you join us on building resiliency in each of our lives!!
The Art of Resilience by Hara Estroff Marano from May 1, 2003 states, “Resilient people do not let adversity define them. They find resilience by moving towards a goal beyond themselves, transcending pain and grief by perceiving bad times as a temporary state of affairs.”
Booker T Washington stated:
“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles overcome while trying to succeed.”
May we all become resilient people! May we overcome the obstacles that we encounter in our journey! I want to be resilient! Will you join me??
(Note: The feature picture is from when the girls and I traveled to Pikes Peak in Colorado. You can read about this day from my previous blog post entitled “2 Years Later”)