Reframe Your Past — How to Turn Trials Into Triumph

It was the day before Christmas Eve, and my two daughters and I were moving into a duplex we had never seen. My mother had chosen it for us when I told her I was getting a divorce and we were moving back to my hometown. We were all grieving. I’d uprooted my children at a time when they needed normalcy the most, but staying where we were wasn’t an option. At eight and three, they were struggling with the absence of their father, the prospect of new schools, and homesickness for their friends. As we backed our moving truck into the small driveway, the door opened on the other side of the duplex. Out came a young mom and her two children — seven and three. Suddenly a situation that seemed lonely and grim had a silver lining that offered hope. Those three people became our closest friends for the next year.

What I was sure was the darkest, loneliest time of my life became a time of healing, a time of receiving help, a time of helping someone else who was also navigating the waters of single motherhood. It was also a time when I realized that I wasn’t just some unnoticed, unimportant blip in the universe. My life had a purpose and a path, and what looked like a devastating storm eventually turned into a cleansing spring rain.

When I told my agent about my divorce, she said, “I know this is heartbreaking, but this pain will make you a better, deeper writer.” What? I didn’t want to hear that. I would gladly remain a mediocre writer and have a happy, healthy marriage. I didn’t want my children to endure such disruption, even if I wound up with a Pulitzer Prize to show for it.

[When Caught in a Torrential Downpour (Literally!)… Give Thanks]

But over the years since then, I’ve written multiple novels that dealt with divorced heroines and single moms, betrayed lovers and traumatized kids, fractured marriages (and happy ones too). A couple of years later, I accompanied a grieving friend to a divorce recovery group, and that’s where I met Ken, the man who has been making me laugh for the last twenty-three years — a man I never would have met if I hadn’t had to walk that path.

Terri Blackstock If I runThe path hasn’t always been rosy since then. I’ve had other trials, such as dealing with a beloved family member with severe drug addictions. But because I’d found purpose in dark times before, I looked for it again, lurking among the landmines. Without exception, I found it. Since then, I’ve used those experiences to reach countless people enduring the same thing through my novels, I’ve sat on the board of a drug treatment center, I’ve started a small support group, and I’ve counseled many addicts and family members. And in doing all that, I’ve found help for myself and my family.

If I could go back and speak to my younger self — the one with two little girls and a gaping hole in my life, or the one dragged into a battle for my family member’s survival — what would I tell her? Maybe I would tell her that those cracked, peeling frames around her sorrow could someday be shiny new frames that deserved a special place on the wall. That those events would become treasures that layered her character, added depth to her life’s work, gave her empathy for others, and sent her in a new direction that she would never have imagined.

[Pity Parties Suck the Life Out of Your Success: How to RSVP “No”]

Every crisis has purpose, and every trial can turn to triumph.

  • Recall key trials in your life that happened long ago. How did they turn out? Can you see their purpose now that they’re resolved?
  • Find the ways those key events impacted you for the better. If you can’t find any ways, maybe you need to go back even farther. Somewhere back in the archives of your life, something that looked devastating actually became a blessing.
  • Think about how you’ve been able to impact others because of those events.
  • Consider how those events directed your path, when you might have gone a different way.
  • Focus on the end of this journey, even if that’s a long way off. What might you learn from it? How might you grow? How might others be helped because you endured it? Is it possible that something within your current dilemma could turn out for good? Are you even looking for it?

[Read Maria Shriver’s latest ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essay]

I’m no Polyanna. In fact, I have a pretty melancholy personality, which is probably why I write suspense novels. I can imagine the worst-case scenario in every situation, and I’m one who often wallows in my self-pity pit. But it’s indisputable — when I look back on my times of deepest crisis and greatest pain, I can always see the blessing in it. Whatever use I am to the world, as a writer or a mom, a friend or a wife, a grandmother or a colleague, it’s because of the path that got me here.

{Image credit: Chris Lu, Unsplash}

About the Author

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Terri Blackstock, author of If I Run, has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, and the Restoration Series. For more information please visit and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

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