Rejection from someone we have feelings for sucks, even if it’s on the smallest scale of an unanswered text. I mean really, we all know that his/her cell is an extension of their hand or isn’t more then a foot away. Big or small, we’ve all experienced the sting of an unanswered text, been stood up for a date, or even been in a hit-and-run relationship. It sucks, but we recover. We hurt for a while, but eventually, we brush it off, and life goes on as usual.

But what if, 30 minutes after your wedding was supposed to start, the best man shows up and announces that the groom is not coming? This type of sudden, severe, and tragic event can completely crush our balance, make us utterly vulnerable, and force us into a life forever changed.

Nearly 20 years ago, Nicole Contos was that bride left at the altar. She was devastated, but not only did she survive this heartbreaking event, she thrived and created a brand new, decidedly unusual life.

“My first reaction was anger towards my fiancé, and then I felt compassion for my family and the wedding guests,” she told me. “However, I did not do anything that would make me personally feel humiliated, ashamed, or embarrassed. For all these reasons, I decided to go forward with the reception, which was now transformed into a celebration of living life through positivity.”

These days, she can be found at her successful female-empowering Cosmedical Spa called Smooth Synergy in New York City. She owns and operates the spa with her husband of more than 15 years, George Liakeas. Together, they have created something they call the “FemiLift Vagina Rejuvenation treatment,” which is a treatment designed to increase natural vaginal lubrication, improve mild urinary stress incontinence, and even tighten the vaginal walls to help increase pleasure and the likelihood of orgasm during intercourse. The process is pretty painless and takes only a few minutes, so while I visited Nicole and Dr. George in New York for this interview, I decided to give it a try. (Afterwards, I was little sore for about 24 hours, but then I felt great. I give their vagina rejuvenation treatment two thumbs up!)

As we talked (in what was certainly one of the strangest interview settings of my life), I asked Nicole, “Do you feel that being left at the altar all those years ago was a blessing in disguise?” Smiling, Nicole answered, “Yes. I didn’t know it then, of course, but my life is supposed to be with George. After 15 years of marriage and raising two lovely daughters, I still get goosebumps when George walks into the room.”

Sudden life-changing tragedies like the one Nicole faced 20 years ago come in all forms, and they often stay with us consciously or unconsciously for a long time afterward. According to The University of Berkley Health Service,

“As details about tragedies unfold, it is normal to have a wide range of thoughts, feelings and reactions. If you have experienced past traumas, including deaths, losses, violence, or other assaults, you may be experiencing memories and feelings from those events and have increased symptoms now. For very public traumas, even those who have not directly experienced the crisis may be affected.”

People can, however, take steps to help themselves and those around them cope with stress reactions, much like Nicole did. Here are nine strategies Berkley suggests for dealing with a sudden tragic life experience and putting your life back on track.

1. Accept your thoughts and feelings.

You have the right to have your own thoughts and feelings about a tragic event, even if you were not the person directly affected. Remind yourself that, no matter what you are feeling, you are normal and are having acceptable reactions.

2. Talk about your thoughts and feelings.

Even if the trauma is something that is already being talked about publicly, it is important to talk to others about how you are personally affected. Talk to someone who feels safe to you.

3. Take care of yourself.

Take care of your body by watching what and how much you eat, moderating your use of alcohol, drugs, caffeine, nicotine, sugar, and medicine, and by practicing safe sex. Be sure to do some regular exercise and be attentive when driving.

4. Take time for yourself.

Be good to yourself—spend time with people you care about and do things that make you feel better. Take breaks, schedule pleasant activities, and engage in positive, distracting activities such as sports, hobbies, and reading.

5. Practice empathy.

Each person experiences trauma differently, so remember that you and others may have different needs at different times. Try to be flexible. Remember that, when under stress, you may not react in a manner you would normally expect.

6. Moderate your news intake

Be mindful of how the media affects you, especially if you are sensitive to traumatic stories about other people. While having information is helpful for some crises, it can be helpful to limit your exposure to discouraging information by putting a cap on how much you read, listen to, or watch the news.

7. Adjust your involvement in school and work.

If you are having trouble concentrating in class or at work after a traumatic event, talk to your professors or boss about how to adjust and/or manage your workload to give yourself time to recover.

8. Take action.

While it’s generally not advisable to make big life changes in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event, you can always find ways to express your thoughts and feelings about the trauma through political action, community service, and spiritual/religious practice to give yourself a healthy outlet.

9. Know when and how to seek help.

Stress reactions usually diminish in severity over time. However, if your symptoms persist, cause you excessive discomfort, or increase over time, you may want to seek professional assistance.

When we experience traumatic events in life, they can send us reeling. No one expects or invites disaster, and it can seem incredibly unfair that we have to experience such discomfort, loss, and uncertainty.

If you have experienced something traumatic, though, I encourage you to draw hope from Nicole’s story and follow her advice. Sometimes, it comes down to accepting that we can’t see the whole picture just yet and that, though we are in pain in the moment, more happiness still awaits us later on as we heal and grow.

Sandra LaMorgese Ph.D. is an expert in personal and professional reinvention, authentic living, communication, and bridging the gap between sexuality and a lifestyle that focuses on holistic health of the mind, body and spirit. She is the author of Switch: Time for a Change, a memoir of her journey from holistic practitioner to professional dominatrix at 55-years-old after losing everything, and her passion and purpose is to empower others towards healthy authentic living. To learn more about Sandra and receive your FREE eBook “5 Steps for Better Communication, Sex, and Happiness (Did I mention better sex?) visit www.sandralamorgese.com/ 

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