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Because of my extremely troubled childhood, I am continually asked, “How does one overcome tragedy or difficult life challenges?” Without knowing the particular details of someone’s situation, my generic answer usually has something to do with the reclaiming of a positive emotional state by taking responsibility, forgiveness, and letting go.

That answer, while truthful, regularly doesn’t suffice, and the person will inevitably respond, “Yeah, but…How?” This opens the door for a more detailed explanation, which I’m happy to give.

My first suggestion is to find or create a supportive environment (which can include, but is not limited to, family and friends).

After my parents were murdered, I was very fortunate to be placed into the custody of my maternal grandmother. She provided a loving and nurturing environment that allowed me to grow and flourish after witnessing such a heinous incident.

In your case, you may find it helpful to locate a support group or an organization that can help you work through your issues, or you may want to link up with a productive group of like-minded people to have as a social outlet. You can find groups of almost any interest you can think of at Meetup.com. I’m not suggesting you find a Meetup group to dump your problems. I am suggesting that, as you work through your challenges, you have other outlets so that you don’t allow your problems or current life situation to consume you. You can also create a supportive environment by cleaning, organizing, and beautifying your immediate environment in some way. Maybe you can buy some fresh flowers or put up a photograph or picture that makes you smile and place the objects where you will regularly see them. Although these may seem like trivial suggestions, these simple ideas will start to move the mind and body toward overcoming your challenging situation.

My biggest emotional breakthroughs have happened through forgiveness, letting go, and taking responsibility. Believe me when I tell you, it took a lot of work for me to come to a place where I could forgive the man that killed my mother.

After honestly realizing that I could not change the past, I started to ask myself better questions, like: If I can’t change the past, how can I change my feelings about what happened?

That question was a major turning point in my life because I started getting answers that accelerated my healing process. The first answer I got was quite startling. I can change my feelings about what happened by focusing on what good has come from this very bad situation. It took a lot of courage for me to answer that question. Some of the immediate answers were that my mother could now rest in peace because she was no longer being physically abused by my stepfather. Another answer was that I was no longer being abused or tortured by him as well. A third answer was that I was removed from a downtrodden, violent neighborhood on the south side of Chicago and moved to a place where I was able to flourish. As time has passed, I have also realized that some of these things may have happened for me to use my life as an example to help others.

I have shared a few ideas here that can definitely get you started on your path to overcoming difficult life challenges. I detail more in-depth methods in my book How To Choose Happiness…Most of The Time: 30 Ways in 30 Days that can help you continue with your growth and healing.

Until next time, remember to stay Positively Positive!


Chappale Burton is an international motivational speaker and coach with a degree in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of How To Choose Happiness…Most of The Time: 30 Ways in 30 Days, an inspiring and autobiographical book, which not only details his life story but gives the reader practical steps to help themselves through any kind of adversity. To learn more about Chappale, please visit his website.

*Photo by Sebastiano Pitruzzello (aka gorillaradio).