I wanted to talk a little about resilience. What is resilience, you ask? Psychology Today defines it as, “that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back at least as strong as before.” The American Psychological Association defines resilience as, “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.” When I think about the word resilience, I imagine a beautiful little flower growing out of the concrete. I also think about my friend, Sarah (name changed to protect her confidentiality).
My mom and I have spent a lot of time with Sarah in therapy sessions. She is adopted and has the most wonderful family who love her and are so very committed to her health and happiness. Before she was adopted, she had a lot of traumatic experiences and scary memories. Her birth mom wasn’t able to care for her, protect her, or keep her safe. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say I wanted to growl at and even bite her birth mom after hearing some of Sarah’s stories. But mom reminded me that Sarah’s birth mom has her own story and probably also had a lot of scary, hurtful experiences growing up. Mom explained to me that we need to have compassion and love for her birth mom, because she probably did the best she could and loved Sarah as best as she knew how. When someone doesn’t experience the kind of nurturing love and affection they need growing up, it sure makes it hard to give to their own children.
Anyway, back to Sarah. Her inner strength is something I greatly admire. I don’t think I could have survived the things she did and be as well-adjusted, kind, respectful, and compassionate towards others as she is. She sometimes struggles with sharing her feelings, trusting others, and allowing them to love her and show her affection, but she’s working hard on this. While being affectionate is sometimes hard for her with humans, Sarah always feels safe cuddling with me (and this is the best part of my week!). It seems to be easier for her to snuggle with me on the ground when talking about the hard stuff. Mom and I just listen to her big feelings. This feels really special, I get to feel how important I am to Sarah and that makes me feel good inside. Sarah is smart, a good student, very caring towards animals, funny with a sarcastic sense of humor, a good friend, fun, very determined, and just all-around pawsome. She has such a bright future ahead of her. She also has a lot of understanding, love, and compassion for her birth mother. SHE is my definition of resilience.
What makes Sarah so resilient? One of the most important factors in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Remember her pawsome adoptive family I mentioned? I think her mom and dad are a big part of her resiliency. I also think Sarah has an internal strength that helps her through challenging times. Check out the Seven C’s of Resilience on the next page to learn ways to build resilience in your family!