Finding the Hidden Gems in Life’s Difficult Experiences

difficult experiences

A few years ago I was working full time, pregnant with my second child, and generally following my life plan, when suddenly, without warning I was confronted with an experience that took me into the deepest levels of pain.  At nearly 34 weeks pregnant, an abnormality was detected during a routine ultrasound. Immediately, a series of medical tests began in order to detect the cause of the problem, and I sank into a deep depression, overwhelmed by a tidal wave of fear, guilt, shame, and anxiety. I lost all hope of having a healthy, normal baby.

It was the first time in a while that things had not gone as planned, and I was distraught. If it weren’t for my three-year old son, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to live through the experience. The range of potential negative possibilities seemed infinite, and I did not know how I would survive if my baby died, or was born unhealthy. I desperately wanted an end to the agony I felt, and I began to pray incessantly for the best end possible to the situation, although I had not idea what that might be.

I am not a religious person, but being in the depths of emotional crisis, frankly there was nowhere else to turn but to something greater than my individual self. Rationally, I simply couldn’t make sense of what was happening to me. Given my young age and good health, any complication was statistically supposed to be very unlikely. The doctors could not give me any answers, as test after test came back “normal”. A psychiatrist prescribed medication to help me calm down. It helped, but it was not enough.

Of course, what I wanted in truth was an end to my nightmare. I wanted that the whole experience turn out to be a false alarm. As the weeks went by, part of me began to intuit that somewhere deep inside, and perhaps hidden and buried for lack of use, I did have the inner resources to handle and survive this experience, regardless of the outcome.

What I learned is that these times of emotional crisis that we strive so hard to avoid are actually opportunities. For me, this emotional crisis held an opportunity for growth and understanding. What do we do when we have to face crisis?

We can find our faith in the order of things.

There is a part of us that wants to control the course of our lives and choose what to experience. Actually, we think that we do control our lives, but in the midst of times of acute crises, it becomes clear that this is not the case. We don’t get to choose what happens to us, only how we will face the experiences that arise. Crisis gives us the opportunity to practice this. Without these difficult times, how would we put our faith, truly, into practice?

We reach for our inner resources.

We are always given all the tools we need to handle any situation, but not necessarily in advance. It is often a difficult experience that pushes us to look for these tools, or unearth them or recognize them. If I had been told in advance, this is the experience you must face and these are the tools you will use, I would not have been reassured but rather frightened. But in the midst of the turmoil, the only thing to do was an inner search, to find these inner resources that I didn’t know that I had.

We come to a place of acceptance.

Even in the depths of the most difficult life experiences, growth can occur. Actually it is almost as though these are the times that offer the greatest opportunity for growth. During the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I would have given anything to escape my situation and I could hardly see how it would benefit me in the future. I came to be grateful for the experience later on, reflecting back on what had happened. What brought me out of the fear, grief and shame I felt at the prospect of either losing my child or raising a child who was different, was coming face to face with my own limiting and false beliefs and discarding them. After all, who was I to say what kind of life is worth living? Who was I to know how the grand plan should be carried out?

* * *

I ended up having the baby, a few weeks after the first signs of trouble, and the first years with my daughter were not easy. She was born with a disability that would affect her lifestyle and ours. But these perceived limitations quickly faded away in the presence of our love for her.

As human beings we all face limitations, and out of these arise opportunities to grow. Nothing that happened during her first year was worse than that initial experience of overwhelming crisis. Over time, I was first able to accept, and later be grateful for, the way things had worked out. As I came to a place of gratitude, the last vestiges of my fear and anxiety began to dissolve. I came to a place of peace that I hadn’t known was possible a few years earlier. Difficult experiences are a part of being human, and in fact, we all have the resources to survive whatever we are given. Finding the hidden gems, such as love and resilience, was thanks to that difficult- and very human- experience.

Photo by Maximo Lopez

11 thoughts on “Finding the Hidden Gems in Life’s Difficult Experiences”

  1. Hi Emily,

    Great Post! Emily, you’re already a great role model for your daughter. As she grows, she too will look for inner resources and strength to get through life difficulties. She will find a way to go around or through her limitations to reach her life goals. I know that you will guide her in the right direction so she can run down the path at her own pace with glee!


    1. Hi Eugene,
      I agree with you. I think it is every parent’s secret dream that their children don’t have to face any of life’s hardships. But inside we know that life isn’t like that. Hardships are opportunities in disguise, because we are all on a learning path, even if we don’t always see it clearly.

      Thank you for your response.

      Cheers, Emily

  2. Hi Emily,

    I just stumbled across your post and wanted to say thank you for sharing. In recent weeks I’ve miscarried our first child and lost my auntie at a young age to Parkinson’s Disease, so I am very much feeling that life is a struggle. It’s hard not to let fear and sadness consume you when things are tough but I’m becoming more aware of just how precious life is and that I’m extremely blessed in so many respects, therefore it’s important to try and gain strength from the lessons I’m currently experiencing. Posts like yours help me to keep focused on the silver linings in my life, just as you have done!

    Em x

    1. Hi Em,

      Thank you for sharing as well. I can really relate to your struggle, and I totally agree with you that it is helpful to see difficult times as opportunities to learn. We never know what life is going to present us with, and sometimes it doesn’t follow our plan. I try to have faith in the idea that we can grow through any experience, especially the tough ones! And, like you, I also get a lot of help and inspiration from like-minded people who share what they have learned.

  3. Hi Emily, so glad that all turned out well in the end with your daughter, and that her perceived limitations were overcome by your love for her. You are right, we all face limitations and encounter crisis in life that help us grow. I’ve never had children, but had a health crisis with a minor stroke last year. Facing up to a career change made me stronger, and I feel that I’ve grown from that challenge, especially as I have to cope with the minor disability of my left hand. It also made me realise how lucky I am as there are so many far worse off.

    1. Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for your comment. I am happy that we can share our experiences and learn from each other. Lots of times, the challenges we face are really similar even if our experiences look different. In my experience health crises, both my own and those of my loved ones, are major opportunities for growth. And as always, we can feel so much better as we learn to accept, again and again, what is.

  4. This is a beautiful post. We have a foster kid that has changed our lives completely . She was also unexpected and unplanned . But I have realized that the unplanned things in life might be the best thing to ever happen to us .
    Huge Respect .


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