Getting Mojo back: Tools to help grief-stricken people to develop resilience after tragedy

With a massive vaccination drive ongoing, people are less wary about Covid-19 although doctors are wary about a third wave
Picture for representation
Picture for representation

Resilience is like a muscle. One can build it over a period of time.  That is what counselors, psychologists, doctors, and experts propound. Owing to the pandemic, sharing grief has become much more difficult with many people unable to give or receive a hug during times of tragedy. Option B, a global portal dedicated to building resilience, is for such people. Psychological counselors say they have been receiving more queries than ever before about how to develop resilience and bounce back from adversity. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. With a massive vaccination drive ongoing, people are less wary about Covid-19 although doctors are wary about a third wave.

Sailaja Vissamshetty, a psychologist at the Hyderabad-based Sahaja Foundation, says that she got at least 30 percent more calls at the height of the pandemic seeking help to bounce back after a personal tragedy. “After the initial few months of mourning the death of a loved one, losing a business or a job, people want to get back to life with a vengeance. I help them with tools to return to normalcy,” she says. However, not everyone is lucky enough to be able to afford counsellors or even pick up the phone and open up.

“At this very minute, nearly 9,00,000 folks around the world between ages 35-55 years are trying to build resilience and handle grief better. The idea of creating Option B and equipping it with tools and resources is to create a support system for those in a disadvantaged place in life,” says Yin Lu, Head of Option B. The not-for-profit initiative, funded by California-based Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, and launched in April 2018, has its roots in the book Option B, co-authored by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, which she wrote after the sudden demise of her husband Dave Goldberg.

“The pandemic did not leave us with Option A. We all had to embrace Option B by default. It means that we had to develop resilient muscles to feel better. Those going through grief due to loss of life, illness, injury, abuse, sexual assault, divorce, family challenges and incarceration are those who need to build resilience the most,” says Yin.

By the end of this year, the portal will be releasing a help kit with 11 core lessons on building resilience backed by research to help people be action-driven in handling adversity. The lessons are a result of work and guidance from experts such as Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist, thought leader and co-author of Option B and Michelle Palmer, Executive Director, Wendt Center for Loss and Healing, US.

Yin recalls her growing up years in China in a multi-generational household where she could seek the guidance and mentorship of her family members—grandparents, mom, cousins et al. And now, she turns to her spouse and even her children at times. Much like in India, which has a strong family support system. She lost her dad when she was a teenager and her first lesson in resilience comes from her mother. “My mom would always find something to laugh about—it could be on TV, on the daily cartoon in the newspaper or a message. She would make it her priority to find joy every day, despite the grief and hardships. I have learned a lesson or two from her.” 

How do we convince people that problems are a part of life? And tackling it is an integral function of an individual? “We are trying to push a culture where hardships are normalised. A society where we tell people it is ok not to feel ok and that with time, they will be in a better place by working on the hardships,” Yin sums up their core activity.

Four steps to Build Resilience

1. Experience a setback
2. Identify the feeling, eg. rejection, shame, confusion etc.
3. Accept struggle is a part of life
4. Go over the lessons learned

—Julie Lythcott-Haims, advisor to Option B

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