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This week I (Jen) am excited to share a story with you from a friend who has been applying the 19 relational skills within her family. Recently she was able to use the skills during a painful loss. While there will still be grieving after the return to joy from sadness, the relational skills helped Lisa Hamel and her family navigate this hard time and be glad to be together as a family in the midst of the grief.

Our family has had more than it’s share of bad news in the past few years.

As a parent, there is nothing that hurts worse than seeing your children suffer.  A few years ago life was humming along as we expected when we were blindsided by cancer in two of our four parents.  As we were about ten months into my dad’s battle, my mother-in-law was told she had stage four pancreatic cancer and had a maximum of six months to live.  We were shocked.  We had already been through a broken leg, an autism diagnosis and the news of my father’s cancer.  It didn’t feel like our year could get any worse!  My stomach tied in knots and a sinking feeling of fear and hopelessness bore down on me.   It was hard but what felt the most unbearable to me was the fact that I had to tell my boys and watch them grapple with this bad news.  By this point, I had read many of the Life Model books and been a part of a “joy” group for many years.  Because of what I had read in “Joy Starts Here,”  I knew that we had the capacity to return to joy and that my children would need stronger brains to help them get there.

I’m blessed to be married to a man with a stronger brain in this area.  When the day came 10 weeks later and we told the boys that Grandma was with Jesus, we all cried together.  And I was able to act like myself.  I was able to let us sit in the sadness as a group.   The intensity of those moments was difficult but because of the relational skills I’ve learned, I knew that it was temporary.  After a few minutes of crying, the boys quieted with their dad.  We thanked Immanuel that Grandma was no longer in pain.  We thanked him for her impact on our lives and before you know it, my boys were wrestling with their dad!  They were still sad but they were also glad to be with him.  They returned to joy so quickly.  It’s amazing how a child can do this if they have a model to show them how!

Knowing that negative emotions are temporary and do not have to hold us hostage has been so liberating!  No pain is as threatening as it once was.  Negative emotions are not fun but I don’t fear them as much anymore.  Learning how to return to joy has been one of the most amazing gifts for our family.  When things worsened with my own father, I wasn’t as overwhelmed because my brain already had a pathway for navigating death of a loved one.  Bad news will eventually come but there is good news too.  There is a path back to joy.

All of these difficult trials in the last few years have opened my eyes.  I realized that I was living out of fear of other negative emotions.  So fear had major power over me.  I was afraid of being afraid.  I was afraid of being sad.  Afraid of being ashamed….  And on it went.  Since I have learned the Relational Brain Skill of returning to joy, I have so much more freedom.  When all the “what if’s” start in my brain, I remember that if those things happen, I can feel sad or angry etc and then return to joy.  They don’t hold me hostage for weeks, months, or years anymore.  And the fear of my children being in emotional pain -pain that I am helpless to change, has also lessened because we are training them in this essential skill for life in a broken world.

Psalm 112:6-8 says: “Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end, they will look in triumph at their foes.”

So bad news will undoubtedly come for you but there is good news. You don’t have to fear it.  You don’t have to stay there forever.

There is a path back to joy and that is some very good news!


Posted in Marriage, Parenting

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  1. Hee-Choon Sam Lee

    Thank you for sharing. This training works! The lessons I have heard all my life that flew right over my head because they were not real for me, this training makes real. Everyday, I am called on to act like myself or help someone return to joy. I can’t thank you guys and gals enough. Of course, Immanuel gets all the credit 🙂

  2. Erna Topliffe

    Yes, learning to Return to Joy from the Big 6 emotions is certainly an important skill. I am so glad you had these skills to share with your children during this time of sorrow.

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