How Life Can be Lived With Hope, Even in Trying Times

While his hope in life has been severely tested, Jim Doyle says he has chosen to redirect his energy to what is possible, instead of impossible.

Jim Doyle, husband, father of five sons—including two sets of twins!—and author of “Hope for Life: Being Your Best Self When You Need It Most,” reflects on ways in which life can be lived with hope, even during trying times, and how CaringBridge users can remain open to grace.

Jim Doyle writes that “hope” is an outcome of courage and resilience.

In “Hope for Life,” you write that you have experienced many blessings, as well as the unspeakable tragedy of losing a child. As you reflect on your personal healing journey, how did hope first begin to emerge from your excruciating pain?

My son who died was a twin, and it was his brother, older by 1 minute, who first began to lift our family from the depths of despair. The surviving twin’s heart was broken, too, but he challenged us to focus on all the good his brother had done in life … the many blessings.

This has not made our pain and profound sense of loss go away, but with faith, we have made a choice to reclaim hope over sorrow. Every day, I try to live life as best as I can. Some days are better than others.

That is how I define healing.

In each chapter, you share a “Hopeful Secret.” Chapter 10 is about giving and receiving grace. What does grace look like to you, and what role can it play during a health journey?

For “Star Wars” fans, “grace” might look like The Force. You don’t see it, but it is there. And it is powerful. For CaringBridge users, grace might mean trusting in God, or your higher power, without trying to engineer a desired outcome.

With a mindset of grace, it is possible to respond with dignity to things that are completely out of our control. And in a health crisis, sometimes the only thing we can control is how we respond. I think the more we are open to grace, the more it can enter our lives.

It is not a cure, but it is a comfort.

You write that even in the most difficult circumstances, when people feel they have no control over life, freedom of choice remains. What does that mean to patients and caregivers?

In researching “Hope for Life,” I met so many people working to accept life’s challenges with a “can-do” spirit. While they were unable to change their diagnosis or circumstances, no one could take away their freedom of choice.

Patients and caregivers who choose hope over hopelessness can believe their best selves are ahead of them. This can apply even when a health outcome is uncertain.

When things go well, we can give thanks, demonstrate gratitude and keep going. But it is when things don’t go well that freedom of choice comes into play even more.

This is the time when we can be lifted up by those who love us, and we can ask for grace to help us keep going.

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  • giacomo

    Good day Mr. Doyle,
    My name is Giacomo Pfirrman. I have been diagnosed with AML Leukemia, which is now CMML Leukemia. This breakthrough was achieved through the grace of God, the Medical Support Staff, Family and Friends. I am currently waiting on a Bone Marrow Donor Transplant for complete recovery.
    This disease hit me during the prime of my life, (60). The reason I am writing to you is to reinforce your message of strength. During the month I was in the hospital, there were approximately 6 days when I was dwelling in the world of self-pity. “Why this disease?, Why me?, Why now?, What have I done to deserve such a sentence..” I was looking in the wrong direction! Everyday I was surrounded by God, a very supportive medical staff, family and friends, but I failed to see it, feel it. Then one day it happened, I was ‘lucky’, I realized that I was wasting more time in the negative realm and getting no where. It was at that time that I remembered something my mother said to me many years ago, ” When you feel alone, empty, put yourself into something you believe in, trust your feelings.. I am always here for you.” The negative side wasn’t me. I am happy go lucky kind of guy. I chose my natural path. From then on, I made a commitment, there were GOOD days and INTERESTING days. No longer were there BAD days.. I avoided that term, BAD day. Anything referring to a negative, I avoided completely. My approach was, what can we do to make this situation better. I know there are fellow cancer patients that are experiencing a more challenging path than I, for you, I pray you embellish this positive attitude as I have. We all agree the journey is an INTERESTING one, but somehow there is survival. Whether that survival is managing longer than anyone ever dreamed of or making a total recovery. Thank you for reading my comments. It is my hope that this inserts can help someone survive and thrive. Love to you all!

  • Marianne SIMMS

    ***A truly heartfelt article that was so inspirational to read! I have been a caregiver to three family members & one friend.
    It’s a difficult task to endure for anyone yet God helped me to forge ahead as I have Multiple Sclerosis & suffer from Major
    Depression as well as Anxiety Disorder. Hope & a positive attitude are salient traits one must possess to get through these
    hardships in life. I believe that but for the grace of God, I was able to not have another MS exacerbation & concentrate on
    the most significant others in my life: my parents & my brother. I pray that other sick patients & their support partners may
    be so lucky as to realize love plays a key factor in enriching everybody’s life. May God bless & have mercy on the souls of those in the depths of despair. ***

  • Donna Blauw

    This is awesome. Just knowing there is a God who knows and cares made it much easier to walk through my son’s heart failure and transplant and my own course of treatment for lymphoma. Did not mean there were not down times but I knew I was not alone. Caring Bridge was a great place to pour out my heart a nd receive from those who responded.

  • Gloria Englund

    This is a very comforting to look at hope and grace. I have recommended this book to my grief clients. This reminds me of my favorite quote about hope. “When facing the unknown, hope is as reasonable as despair.”

  • Judy Zimmer

    A beautiful article and a wonderful book. Thanks Jim!