Light After Darkness: 6 Ways to Keep Going During Tough Times

tough times

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.

– Desmond Tutu

Throughout the past three years, I’ve experienced the most profound darkness in my life.

A relationship that I cared about ended.

A fragile marriage reached its breaking point and unraveled as I came to realize how little control I had over parts of my life.

I lost my partner, grew apart from my family and became increasingly isolated.

I left a legal job. Quit my career in law. And floundered around in the dark, wondering what to do next.

I gave up my permanent address. Moved around the state. Lived with friends and family between jobs.

As the storms of my life raged, I had to ask myself who I was, who I had become and where I was going.

Yes, a soul-shaking series of events had led to a turbulent life crisis.

I had to grieve, reflect, grow and adapt to the changes in my life. While the path contained uncertainty, pain and loneliness, I had to find a way to keep going. I had to find a way out.

Today, I can honestly say that I’m grateful for having experienced this period of darkness in my life.

Why?

Because the darkness has brought me to the light I see today.

I realize that my grueling and painful journey has brought me to a place of clarity and happiness.

In my darkest hour, I found myself and my purpose.

And most importantly, this place of confusion and darkness helped me understand and appreciate the light.

Are you going through turbulent times in your life? If you’re facing a breakup, divorce or failed business or frustrating career, read on to learn how you can move forward even when you can’t see any light or hope.

Here are 6 ways to navigate the darkness:

1. Get to know yourself better and be open to internal work.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl

Until we confront a real life-crushing event, we tend to preoccupy ourselves with external circumstances and changes.

Difficult life circumstances give us opportunities to explore our inner lives and do the internal work necessary for us to rise above our challenges. Now is the time for self-understanding and self-awareness.

It’s time to use available tools – from therapy and counseling to spirituality and journaling – to help us better understand ourselves.

Who are you? How do you manage your feelings? How can you heal your pain and let go of the past? How can you shift your perspective and become the person you’re capable of being? How do you live in the present moment?

Look for tools that offer support and healing. Reach out to people who can be there for you and lead the way.

2. Become aware of what doesn’t work.

When you hit a dark place, you receive a gift: you realize what doesn’t work.

You have more insight into yourself than you did before.

What went wrong in your relationship? What was your part in its breakup? What kind of partner is wrong for you? How do you break the cycle of seeking the wrong person as your partner?

What did you hate about the career you left? Which parts of the job were toxic? Which skills did you master and which skills did you want to continue working on? What kind of work do you find fulfilling?

Understanding what doesn’t work is as insightful as knowing what does work. Knowing the dark is critical to appreciating the light.

When you see the futility and hopelessness of a particular path or situation, your mind can create a new path and life.

Remember, as Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

3. One step at a time.

Every day of a personal crisis, breakup or serious life change will be a tough one. If you think about the enormity of the situation, you’ll feel paralyzed and want to stay in bed.

What is one small step you can take today?

How can you move your life in a positive direction in the smallest of ways?

Will you sign up for a new course? Attend a new networking event? Be open to meeting new people?

Ride your bicycle for a few minutes? Get some fresh air?

Don’t think about the global picture; take everything moment by moment.

4. Never give up on yourself.

You’re in a tough spot but you’ve been in similar places before.

You’ve gotten through rough patches and you can do it again.

Sure, your current circumstance may be more challenging than those you faced in the past, but you’ve built up your adversity muscle to deal with changes and setbacks. And you’ve done it again and again.

You believed in yourself when no one else did. You got back up. You found a new job, met someone new in your life, found a way to solve the problem at hand.

You’re a known and proven problem-solver, solution-finder and fighter.

You made it this far, even with the scars and bruises that past troubles inflicted on you. You yourself are the best proof that you’ve done it before and can do it again.

5. Appreciate the dark.

During your most difficult hour, it’s hard to sit back and exercise any amount of gratefulness.

Your heart’s throbbing, your head’s crammed with worries and you don’t know yourself anymore. Why would you ever be grateful for this?

You can learn to appreciate the situation because you are discovering the tools you’ll need to navigate in the dark. If you can keep walking toward the light, you’ll develop qualities that will help you resist life’s challenges.

When you walk in the dark, you develop the qualities of persistence, patience, discovery and navigation. Sure, you won’t know where you are, but you’ll start getting a better sense of the darkness and will eventually navigate your way around.

Your greatest gift in the dark is your newfound abilities to embrace change, persist and keep going. These skills you’ll have with you for the rest of your life.

6. The dawn is near.

Yes, the current situation is icky but it can’t stay this way for long.

I’ve found that when a person is at rock bottom, things can’t get worse. They can only improve. If you’re having the worst week or month of your life, be prepared for a positive change.

Life is like the seasons, after all. You can’t remain stuck in winter forever. Your situation will change, just like the seasons change.

You’ll find a way to move on, discover the solution or get the break you’ve been waiting for.

Don’t bask in life’s lows and dark places when light is just around the corner.

Stay hopeful for a brighter tomorrow. Stay patient if things take a little longer than expected.

As Napoleon Hill once said, “Most people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”

Life sometimes serves up difficult situations. You’ll feel terrified and hopeless. Helpless. Your experiences will feel pitch-black scary and lonely.

The good news is that your life won’t stay this way. You can find your way out if you stay strong and persist. You’ll not only achieve significant growth and change, you’ll come out stronger.

You’ll emerge with a newfound appreciation for where you’ve been and will learn lessons that last a lifetime.

Your darkest hours are merely a setup for your greatest days ahead.

Photo by 42andpointless

27 thoughts on “Light After Darkness: 6 Ways to Keep Going During Tough Times”

  1. This was exactly what I needed. I lost my job in 2013 – but got a rare opportunity to volunteer for 1 year in Tonga. Now I’m back in the west and again looking for work. I’ll remember that I’ve been here before.

    Thanks Vish

    1. Thank you for your comment. Looks like a tough time led to a great opportunity and will do so again. Best wishes on your job search – past struggles and current challenges are going to help you land the right job for you. The dawn is near:)

      If there’s a way to mention your recent volunteer experience in your cover letter, do so. I think any employer would be intrigued.

    2. Thank you, well said. These truly are some of key points that have pushed me and continue to get pass those dark moments.

  2. Yes, I am in agreement with Yolande. It is good to have positive reinforcement. “Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke.

      1. Vishnu, this is beautiful. I have this saved. You remind us that life is hills and valleys. Nothing stays the same for long I am going through many challenges, but will emerge stronger then ever. Thank you for this.

  3. This is a great post! I’ve had a situation that happened that has caused a setback in my life, but I’m remaining positive and persistent. I think it’s extremely important to believe in yourself even when no one else does. Knowing your value and staying in the game in crucial!

    1. Hi Erynn, sorry to hear about your setback and glad the article was useful. Yes, it’s all about self-belief and reminding ourselves – we’ve been there and done that before! We just have to keep showing up every day for life. This is going to sound majorly cliched but our setbacks are set ups for much greater things to come:)

  4. This blog is a lovely way to describe what it is like to be in your darkest moments and to see beyond them. Very helpful. Thank you

    1. Thank you Eve for reading. There is something lovely in our darkest moments – it’s a space of growth, insight and awareness. When we get through them, we can hold those dark places in a space of gratitude for helping us become the people we are today.

  5. Reading this piece was so helpful to me today. I have been dealing with the darkness I feel after ending a relationship, a relationship I had once felt so confident in moving forward with, a year ago…I changed so much of my life to be with this man and it’s been so difficult to adjust to the reverse of it all and go back to my “old life”. I am not the same woman, I feel as though I’ve lost my place in my own world….reading this made me realize it’s ok to feel the way I do and that I’m on the right track by taking care of me and it’s going to take a while to find myself in my “new life”.

    1. Carolanne – I’m glad you found the piece helpful and it came at the right time for you. I’ve been in a very similar place as you are now and I’m here to say there is hope! And I can tell you with complete honesty, the relationship and its ending, were the best things that have happened in my life. I too thought I was lost but in reality – I was in the process of being found. When you get shaken up so much by change, emotions, uncertainty, we begin to see the truth in our lives. We see what’s real. We find our place in the world. We have the opportunity to do the internal work. I never saw my breakup as an opportunity to live my best life but it has been. It was a time to let go, see what didn’t work and start over from scratch – not just in the relationship but my entire life. Thank you for reading and your comment. Hang in there!

  6. Thanks, Vishnu. :-) You’ve definitely found your calling as you reach out to help others. :-)
    My darkest hours are giving me the opportunity to recalibrate my internal compass. I compromised so many of my values when I married. As horribly painful as the divorce continues to be, my authentic self is slowly reappearing.
    When I count my blessings, your blog is one of them. :-)

    1. Hi Grateful – I’m grateful for this comment and thank you for writing it.

      What we see as an ending (relationship) is actually a beginning (a powerful life based on our truth). I’m not sure if you’re there yet but I now see my ex as my greatest spiritual teacher and mentor. The more difficult I found the end of our relationship to be, the greater awakening and growth I’ve had.

      When life turns up the heat, we rise:) Thank you again for reading.

  7. Yes Vishnu, we appreciate sunshine only after the darkest nights, which appear to grow much longer than they could be. We emerge stronger and determined, we know the pitfalls yet darker moments do keep stalling our growth again and again.

    Thanks for the inspiring words, they do provide solace and hope.

    1. Thank you for visiting and your comment, Balroop. Yes, the dark times help us get stronger and more determined. We learn from the past and go forward all the wiser with the knowledge. Thank you for your kind comments again.

  8. Hi Vishnu,

    Great advice as always. I love the Viktor Frankl quote.

    Talking from my own experience over the last 3 years I would have to concur with all the above. What’s weird is, I feel like I have so much more clarity now after going through a break-up, job loss, and the death of my father.

    I wouldn’t say I found myself in the darkness, but I definitely did on the way out. And, it was brighter on the other side :)

  9. Just when I think the internal work is almost where it needs to be I find that it’s not.
    I refer to this stage as the longest and hardest chapter of my life, but by no means is it the final chapter.
    I find myself getting stuck between “this is where I’m supposed to be at this moment. It may feel unmoving, but everyday there is a slight change – it is not stagnant”, and the seldom, but very loud other thoughts. “I think I’m becoming lazy in that I’m not actively doing anything to inspire a change. Or am I? Or have I become lazy? But the circumstances that are out of my control, I can accept them, but I can’t erase them…” And on and on it can go sometimes.
    It’s certainly the self talk that has been the hardest to change. It’s like being in a diet. In doing great, nothing is slowing me down! And! Boom – you hit a plateau, begin doubting yourself, and days later realize that the negative self talk is back and is running amuck. I didn’t even notice it’s return!

    My mind has a thousand thoughts, but I’ll stop here.

    Thank you for sharing this – I believe there is more than coincidence to the timing!

  10. Thanks for this encourgement, because I’m in a very dark darkness now.
    I’m navigating through this darkness for about four years now. I lost my husband, children, friends, quitted my job and I’m moving from one place to another. Every time i think that i have found the right place to settle I lose everything and start again … and again … .

  11. I needed this so much – my most amazing relationship ever is ending after 5 years together. We know we love and are possibly soul mates, but we cannot make it work and I’m devastated. Every statement here is exact;y how I feel and it helps to know I’m not alone and that the darkness and agony I feel is okay. And that one day, it will emerge into light again, because for now, all I see or feel is the pain.

  12. My partner of 26+ years telephoned me to end our relationship. I was supposed to join him in a business. He doesn’t want to go down our path anymore. I am devastated and can’t seem to climb-up to the light.

  13. No words can explain how grateful I am for this article. How I stumbled upon it who knows. But it saved me from giving up. It may sound silly but the worst thing in this world is feeling alone and reading this I know Im not. Thank You

  14. I recently entered a very dark time of my life: I broke up with my fiance after a long, difficult engagement. I learned after we broke up that i was emotionally abused by him :( The bond I had to him was a deep one, despite the abuse I endured. Each day is a struggle, living with the pain of a failed relationship coupled with the realization of how badly I was treated, it can be very hard.
    It is encouraging to know that this dark time will not last forever, I will heal and grow from this. And I look forward to finding a man that will treat me the way I deserve to be treated.

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