'Buy This Book'. I have never, in all the many blogs I have written started a blog with these three words.
Lucy Hone wrote What Abi taught Us after the traumatic death of her 12 year old daughter Abi in a car accident. Abi left the house to go for a drive with family friends. And she never came back. How does one cope with a life event like this?
Standing alone centre stage, without even the use of the podium provided, Lucy Hone reached out to all of us to share her strategies for survival in the face of one of life's crueller events.
She made us think about what resilience meant to us, that it is not a suit of armour that you don, but rather a way of leaning into pain and hardship that allows us to feel the emotion while continuing to function in our lives, which just carry right on.
She used her studies in Psychology and qualifications in Resilience Psychology to work out what strategies we need to nurture our own mental health - even in the face of the unthinkable. The three Determinants of Happiness are: 50% from your genetic start point ( the Mum and Dad stuff), 10% from outside influences (winning the lotto or surviving an earthquake) and 40% from our own thoughts and actions. And it is in that wriggle room of 40% that Hone has developed the five strategies that we all need:
Strategy 1 - Choose where you focus your attention
We don't have infinite processing capacity. Our brains can only manage 7 pieces of information at a time. Genetically (and understandably, for survival's sake) we are hard-wired to notice the bad stuff. We need to practice noticing what is going well. People who have higher gratitude scores have better well-being. Lucy has a sign in her kitchen - a bright pink poster and on it the words: ACCEPT THE GOOD. She refers to it often.
Strategy 2 - Never Lose Hope
Lucy paid tribute to the building we were in - the brand new The Piano - as a concrete manifestation of hope for Christchurch. She stressed how important it is to recognise that we all have some big hopes and many smaller ones. When tragedy occurs, turn to your smaller hopes. Ask yourself: What am I hoping for now? It may be something very small. Go for that smaller hope.
Strategy 3 - Nurture Your Relationships
Good relationships are a great predictor of happiness. Be careful with your communications, even when you are in pain. It takes 5 positive interactions to cancel out one negative communication. The negative is unfortunately very powerful.
Strategy 4 - Ask yourself : Is this thing helping or harming me?
Lucy and her husband chose not to view the motor vehicle in which Abi lost her life. They asked themselves this question and the answer was No, this will not help. It is a very simple tool. It will help you get up out of bed, put one foot in front of the next and grieve and function at the same time.
Strategy 5 - Understand that struggle is a part of life
Sometimes we just have to brave. Sometimes the happy FaceBook version of our life is so far from the truth. We have to allow ourselves to feel sad. Resillience Therapy understands that the bad stuff will happen - just don't get stuck in one emotional state for too long. Try not to bottle it up. Lucy worried that she might cry in this presentation. Then she thought - So What. Crying is just crying. She grieves while simultaneously living.
Abi loved the book Allegiant from the Divergent Trilogy and had highlighted a passage from it. Lucy found this passage after Abi had died. She sees what she is doing as being like a line from that highlighted quote, that she is making:
the slow walk towards a better life
There was not a dry eye in the Concert Hall at 12pm.
Thank you for talking to us Lucy.