Well-Being//

How I Learned to Be Steady in Life’s Emotional Storms

In the face of emotional instability, it is not a time to lecture, turn our back, or get revenge--it is call to love.

My greatest teacher over the past few years—and quite possibly my life—has been grief. After my father-in-law passed away unexpectedly, I knew the role I needed to fill for my family. I vowed to look beyond the surface to consider what was really going on… to notice changes in behavior that might indicate attention and care was needed… to resist the urge to take unbecoming behaviors personally and recognize the painful root.

Just as I predicted, grief wore irritability, impatience, anger, detachment, and fatigue during that difficult spring season. But because I was prepared for grief in disguise, I was able to be steady in the face of emotional instability. I often surprised myself by remaining calm in the presence of unreasonable behavior simply by recognizing grief as the culprit. 

That’s grief talking,” I repeatedly reminded myself one day when the outburst my teenage daughter was having was so maddening that I wanted to scream. 

But I managed to remain calm and gently asked, “How can I help right now?” That’s when she stopped ranting and began to cry. The outburst was merely a cover for the immense pain inside the heart. And as a result of the compassionate response, we were able to tend to it.

Miraculous, I thought to myself. 

It’s quite miraculous what we’re able to do when we don’t make the breakdown about us.  

It’s quite miraculous what we’re able to provide when we don’t dismiss the underlying pain. 

I didn’t know this compassionate and healing response would be given back to me, but it has, time and time again from every member of my family. In fact, just a few days ago, I found myself in a state of despair and resorted to an unhealthy coping mechanism for my stress. When my spouse saw me struggling, he did not make my unbecoming behavior about him. Instead, he directed all the love, healing, compassion, and support towards ME. He was my steady in the storm, and it felt like oxygen to my weary soul. 

Years ago, I would not have recognized his response as a gift, but now that I see and feel it, it is important to share this awareness. Too often people show us their pain, and we make it about us—but now I know:  

It’s quite miraculous what gaps we’re able to close when compassion becomes a bridge. 

It’s quite miraculous what storms we can weather when love becomes an anchor. 

As we navigate an incredibly tumultuous time in our personal lives and in our world, it would serve us well to remember grief wears disguises … fear talks in unbecoming ways …  anxiety gets controlling and mean. And when these emotions are present, it is not a time to lecture, turn our back, or get revenge, but it is call to love. 

May this poem from my new book, Live Love Now, help us answer the call by being steady in life’s emotional storms… 

I KNOW SOMEONE 

I know someone going through a hard time.
He’s irritable, overreactive, and difficult to be around. 
That’s grief talking, I remind myself,
And my love expands like an umbrella in a downpour. 

I know someone going through a hard time.
She’s emotional, fidgety, and anxious.
That’s fear talking, I remind myself,
And my love whispers to her like a calming prayer. 

I know someone going through a hard time.
He’s self-critical and unable to sleep.
That’s anxiety talking, I remind myself,
And my love supports him like a great oak tree. 

I know someone going through a hard time.
She’s defensive and angry.
That’s depression talking, I remind myself.
And my love breaks through the clouds and warms her face. 

It’s not easy to respond when I want to retreat, 
To forgive when I want to freak out, 
To bite my tongue when I want to bite back. 

But when you’re going through a hard time, you feel shaky. 
You feel like you’re suspended in a place you don’t want to be. 

I know because that was me at a low point in my life,
Suspended in darkness. 
I was anxious, overreactive, defensive, and moody.
But I was never alone.
Thank God, I was never alone. 
Being not-alone is what helped me hold on

So I could see my trial was temporary, 
That my story was not over. 

So, when I see my loved ones going through a hard time,

I do the one thing I know helps: 
Get steady and stay close. 

We’ll get through this,” I remind them as I remind myself. 

If we can just hang on to the steady hand of love, we’ll find our footing once again. 

(excerpted from Live Love Now)


Rachel Macy Stafford is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and founder of www.handsfreemama.com. In her newest book, LIVE LOVE NOW, Rachel does what she does best: she lovingly encourages, guides, and challenges us to be better than we’ve been. Through honest storytelling and small steps, Rachel shows us that simple changes yield positive results. LIVE LOVE NOW equips 21st century parents with tools for 21st century parenting that have the power to transform your home and heart into a healthier, happier place. 

“In a world where stress and burnout make it so hard for parents and children to meaningfully connect, LIVE LOVE NOW is a ray of hope. It’s a book that will empower readers to adapt to the new realities of parenting and build strong relationships with the young people in their lives where they model what they want to teach them.”

Arianna Huffington, founder & CEO, Thrive Global
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