Reframing Your Life

My daughter died and so did my shot at ever being happy again.

OR

My daughter was born to the life that never ends, which makes me the mom of an angel! Seeing her again inspires me to become the best version of myself that God intended me to be.  In the meantime, I get all sorts of hookups because she’s made me VIP in Heaven!!!

Same painful situation: I lost my precious little girl too soon.

Two perspectives.

One choice.

MINE.

We don’t always have the power to change the people around us or the situations we’re in. 

I sure don’t have the ability to bring my precious princess back.  However, I do have the capacity to reframe and decide what I’m going to tell myself about the unchangeable facts.  Will it be the first statement or the latter?  Will I be sad and in pain forever because my life ceased the moment she departed? Or will I feel her in my heart, see her in my surroundings, and honor her with my life while I use the painful experience to grow in faith and in kindness?

When we reframe, we identify a thought or perspective that impacts us in a negative way and we dispute it. We intentionally change it into a more positive version of it.  We essentially change the standpoint from which we look at the situation in question.

For example, you wake up on a rainy day and think, “Ugh, what an ugly day.  This rain sucks.” 

Then you find yourself getting in a bad mood and complaining about what will happen if you wear open shoes and there’s a puddle, or how your blow dry will be ruined, or maybe you whine about how you’ll get wet when you go from your car to the office because you have no umbrella. 

The day just started off wrong and you are ready to jump off a cliff.  Yes, just because it’s raining. You may think I’m exaggerating, but trust me when I tell you most of our worst experiences start with a simple unpleasant trigger. 

Cognitive theories have taught us that our thoughts are directly connected to our feelings and behaviors. That is, whatever you think impacts the way you feel and act (and viceversa).

Thoughts inform our brains of what neurotransmitters to release.

Will it be the “feel good” ones (e.g. dopamine, serotonine) or the stress-related cortisol? If I think the rain sucks, I will be grumpy about my wet toes, feel miserable when I get in an accident because I was drying them instead of paying attention to the road, and I will feel down and insecure because my hair is frizzy and that’s what everybody is thinking of when they look at me.

Really?  I just ruined my day because of one stupid thought that lead to some irrational ones (e.g. people care about my hair), bad decisions (e.g. not looking forward while driving), and a miserable mood (caused by the stress-inducing hormones released). 

Rewind! Go back to bed. Now wake up. It’s raining. 

Your original thought is still the one above, but you catch yourself and you reframe: “Oh what a beautiful day! God is watering the plants and filling up the dams so that we can enjoy our running water. Wohoo! I get to wear my fashionable rain boots!

The day is perfect to be in the office and not feel that I’m missing out on a sunny day. I love rainy days… they’re good luck!” 

Yes, you lied to your face and you didn’t believe a thing about this whole rain thing. But guess what: You also didn’t fuss and complain about it, so your body didn’t receive signals from the brain to feel crappy and irritable.

Instead, you smiled at the rain, laughed at yourself when you saw your bad hair day in the mirror, and blow-dried your wet clothes with those fancy bathroom hand blowers in your office.  Oh, and in the process, you got a shot of dopamine and serotonin.

So hey, lie away and you will find yourself believing it one day!

Harvard “happiness” research has proven that positive thinking can overpower our genetics and what we’ve learned from the environment.

In other words, we can outsmart nature and nurture by just making the choice of reframing to find a more pleasant perspective. But wait, I got the rain stuff down packed, but what is positive about losing your almost-three-year-old sweet daughter unexpectedly? Reframe THAT!

I know.  Nobody said reframing was easy. In fact, it may be the most difficult thing you’ll ever do because it goes against our natural instincts and reactions. As my dad would say, we have to practice “violence” in order to reframe.  In other words, we have to attack our very own tendencies and desires, and go against them. 

Reframing takes a lot of practice and… HELP!

Sometimes help comes in the form of therapy, spiritual direction, people, signs, books, speeches, or mere introspection…

Regardless of its form, the main ingredients for mastering the art of reframing are practice and perseverance. Reframing is a habit. Unfortunately, we cannot learn new habits before unlearning the old ones, facing resistance and experiencing trial and error. It won’t happen overnight and sometimes you’ll nail it, while others it will nail you!

Reframing is HARD, but NOT reframing is HARD-ER in the long term.

    • I battled with myself when my heart wanted to stop beating because of the unbearable pain of losing my daughter. I chose to live.

    • I fought my body when it desired to stay in bed and dwell on the agony of each breath I took without her by my side. Instead, I got up and went about my day being present for my family and clients.

    • I challenged the thoughts that brought guilt when random smiles would show up. I smiled anyway.

    • I went to war with flashbacks, anger, pain, and hopelessness. After allowing myself to feel them, I pushed them away and welcomed JOY.

I did all of the above by reframing first. 

For example, at some point I felt that I could never be happy if I truly loved my daughter. Smiles meant I didn’t care enough and was moving forward.

I reframed this thought by telling myself that I would honor my daughter with smiles and service, not tears… I imagined her watching over me and crying because mommy was sad, and I couldn’t stand putting her through that pain…

I pictured her in the blissful and beautiful Heaven I believe in, and told myself I had to be happy for my daughter and not be selfish because love is NOT selfish.

I reframed day in and day out. Sometimes I was successful and other times I lost the battle. But each day was a new opportunity to try again.  And that is what we do.  We reframe ONE-DAY-AT-A-TIME. We convert the really crappy situations into incredibly powerful experiences that allow us to grow and become the best version of ourselves God intended us to be.

Reframing is a super power.

It allows you to change everything without anything or anyone around you changing. It’s entirely up to you, which means that no matter what you’re going through or who you’re dealing with, you can choose to experience joy NOW. You don’t have to wait for it to be over or for the people involved to change.  It takes time, practice, and effort, but it’s oh so worth it!  Persevere and it will be a matter of time before you realize that it comes more naturally and you no longer have to work so hard at telling yourself what you want to believe.  Reframing empowers you and changes your fate.

Today, over 4 years after the most excruciating pain of my life, I am happy… TRULY happy.

I do have my days in which I miss her more than others, but I consistently love her with all my heart and soul.  I talk to her, I feel her, I imagine her, and I honor her.  I even get her busy hooking me up with God when I ask her to intercede for my petitions.  My little Fofi inspires me daily to be better so that I can go straight to Heaven one day and hold her in my arms forever.

REFRAME.

  

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