In Search of Hope

What is hope? After someone dies, we look for hope more than ever. Sherry Williams White, nurse, writer and grief specialist, shares her insight on what hope is and how we find it in the midst of our grief. She writes: Hope is not something you can touch or feel or see. Hope is an emotional state. Hope is the desire or search for a future good. It is the wish for or expectation that something will be better and the expectation that there can be a positive outcome even when the present condition is to the contrary. But, how do you find it in the midst of pain and suffering?

by Sherry Williams White

Scottish poet, Samuel S. Smiles, once said; "Hope is like the sun, which as we journey toward it cast the shadow of our burden behind it.  But, when someone you love dies and you are faced with multiple changes all at once, it is normal to feel helpless and hopeless. Many people speak to me about the need to have something to hang onto; some way to feel that there is still hope in the world. People want to believe that someway in the midst of all that has happened to them that there is some prospect of change for the better.  But, what is hope?  Where do you find it? How can you hang on to it in times of stress and trauma in your life?

Hope is not something you can touch or feel or see.  Hope is an emotional state.  Hope is the desire or search for a future good.  It is the wish for or expectation that something will be better and the expectation that there can be a positive outcome even when the present condition is to the contrary. But, how do you find it in the midst of pain and suffering?

Hope has been viewed over the years as being the result of faith which carries a divinely inspired and informed form of positive belief.  In some forms of Christianity, it is even one of the three theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity or Love) and is thought of as a spiritual grace.  However, hope is not just tied to Christianity.  It is indeed an active part of your thinking.  It is part of your psychological being that helps you fight the odds, be optimistic in terms of your attitude and move forward with a sense of determination that good can overcome evil and that you can survive in the worst of situations.  It is in essence a state of consciousness.  You hang on to hope with the goal that it will alleviate feelings of despair and lead the way to more bearable stress and eventually happiness in spite of all odds. 

Hope is indeed a way of thinking feeling and acting.  Hope is a way to move toward your goals and in terms of grief; it is the ability to move toward a life that can find a reason for living again without the person in your life that has died.  Hope is the search for meaning again in a life of confusion and doubt.  Hope is the search for joy and a new normal that will help us face tomorrow with a sense of expectation and happiness even though that happiness will be different from the happiness we have known in the past. Hope lifts your spirit with the little things so you can bear the big things. 

Hope also provides you with an opportunity for growth.  Hope is what this country was built on.  People came to a new world looking for freedom to do what they set their mind to.  They came to a new country and saw hope as the ticket to a better tomorrow and hope gives us power over worry so that it does not have power over tomorrow.

Now that you understand what hope is, how do you find it in the midst of your despair?  One of the best vehicles for finding hope is through information.  Information about what has and is happening to you gives you power over fear of the unknown.  Understanding your feelings and what to expect in the future with regard to the emotional and physical reactions to grief will help you plan for difficult times such as holidays and special days.  You can prepare for those things that might lead to feelings of being out of control.  With grief, it is normal to feel out of control.  You can not change what has happened to you and you can not bring the person back.  In many instances, you have no control over what is happening to you at the time but with information, you do understand that these things are all normal and with information comes knowledge and with knowledge comes a sense of control and having control over what is happening and know what could and will happen in the future gives you a sense of hope that you can survive even this.

There is an old saying by Confucius; "The gem cannot be polished, nor man perfected without trials."  This can be true of your grief as well.  Using this experience as a time to learn new things about yourself can lead to developing a new you.  Your identity has been altered.  You may no longer be a mother, father, husband, wife, son or daughter or whatever the case may be, but you can learn to be a new you.  A new you that has been formed by the relationship you had with your special person; a person that is still being created by the memories and the love of that relationship.  You do not stop loving someone just because they have died.  They are a part of who you are and a part of who you are becoming.  You have now before you an opportunity to take that relationship, polish it and make something out of it that will honor and pay tribute to that relationship.  You may become a better listener, a better friend, parent, son or daughter.  You now have on your horizon the ability to make your loved one's life and their death take on a special meaning through you by how you choose to live your life.  This should certainly give you hope. 

As you move forward daily, move forward with optimism and expectation.  I am in no way saying that each day will be easy, but you can choose to look at each opportunity that presents itself as a way to identify a new you.  You may choose to do something new, you may choose to visit a place you had always planned to see, or go back to an old hobby but you can do all of those things and hold onto the memories of your loved one.  You can look at each moment of relief and each time you laughter as a gift from your loved one, a little reminder that they are with you and encouraging you to move forward.

I ran across an old poem in one of my favorite poetry books.  I would like to share with you now.

John Kendrick Bangs

It there's no sun, I still can have the Moon;
If there's no Moon, the Stars my needs suffice;
And if these fail, I have my Evening Lamp;
Or, Lampless, there's my trusty Tallow Dip;
And if the Dip goes out, my Couch remains,
Where I may sleep and dream there's Light again.

This poem says it all about hope.  We hold onto the expectation that we can survive even the worst life has to offer out of our need to be able to survive.  This is not being a cock-eyed optimist.  This is trusting in the future, trusting in God, trusting in relationships and trusting in each other.  For you see, Hope is not a place or a thing, Hope is you and me and people around you offering support and love and encouragement.

Copyright 2007New Leaf ResourcesCrestwood, KY

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