When Light Breaks Through After a Crisis Experience

Sep 18, 2021

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”

— Albert Camus

After spending eight years in Boston, moving to bitter-cold Minnesota was nothing new. I was used to the biting winds, shoveling snow... I was even used to sending the kids out to trick-or-treat in full parkas and snow pants.

But what I wasn’t used to were the fickle springs. I’ve lived here for over twenty years now, and I’m still shocked, every single year, by the promise of spring playing tricks on us.

Every March, snow begins to melt away. Brown earth begins to appear here and there where white used to be. Steve taps syrup from the sugar maple trees in our backyard. The nights are still freezing, but every day gives way to more thawing, more sunshine, more light.

And every year, the fool, I start packing up all our boots and heaviest sweaters. We made it. And then, in late April or early May: a snowstorm. 

It’s happened every year we’ve been here, and yet every year my hope in March takes control and my naivety shines through. And I’m still shocked and disappointed every time.

But this is exactly what it’s like emerging from a crisis experience.

Beaten down, cold, and huddled inward, there are moments after a crisis where we start to emerge and see some light at the end of the tunnel. After being so buried by what happened, we find ourselves in a place where we can look backwards and say, “Hey, that was the worst of it.”

And suddenly, without warning, memories of our crises suck us back into the dark depths of our experience. Where did that come from? How could this happen when just a moment ago we were at the light of the tunnel, looking back at the dark?

But healing after crisis comes in just that -- fits and starts. It is like an uneven and unpredictable spring.

Traveling this non-linear path of healing takes patience and tenderness towards yourself. Some days are better. New routines are starting to fall into place. Your energy and outlook begin to stabilize. There are hours, maybe days, where the intensity of your crucible experience doesn’t dominate your every thought. You catch yourself laughing at a joke, enjoying a night out with friends.

Then boom - you’re reminded that your season of deep heartache is not over.

Learning how to trust these moments of hope without the fear of being consumed by lingering pain is a fine balance.

We increase our ability to move forward by leaning into the small moments of peace that occur. We are eager to bask in the full light of wholeness, but there is still much to learn from the shadows of crisis that remain.

This is a modified re-telling of a few pages from Chapter 11 of my book Never Waste a Crisis. The rest of that chapter explores what the non-linear path of healing can look like, and how to take that opportunity for growth.

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