Your stocks go poof! You lose your house. A bear almost kills you. The envelope you just opened contains anthrax. Four women still reeling from shock tell how they've managed to regain a sense of stability, safety, confidence, and control.
Trying to change yourself is one thing (and Lord knows, it can take a lifetime), but having to change in response to a turn of events you can't control—a natural disaster, the plunging economy, plain old bad luck—that requires a deeper kind of strength, one that many of us are searching for this year.

Family psychologist Pauline Boss, PhD, a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, believes that resilience is based on being able to accept ambiguity and find hope amid uncertain conditions. Boss, the author of Loss, Trauma, and Resilience, echoes the ideas of Buddhist thinker Pema Chödrön, who advises that in adversity lies the opportunity to see clearly where we want and don't want to be. "The only time we ever know what's really going on is when the rug is pulled out and we can't find anywhere to land," Chödrön writes in her book When Things Fall Apart.

The following four women have been tested in profound ways that defy simple solutions. "I don't think there is a Hallmark sympathy card for any one of them," says Boss, who analyzes their stories. With her help in highlighting what each woman has done right to overcome difficulty, and how she might do better in areas where she's still struggling, we can all find lessons for navigating tough times.

Janet Hanson Hit from All Sides
Janet Hanson, 56, outside the New York Stock Exchange, ponders her future.

 hspace= Attacked by a Bear
Allena Hansen, 57, at home in Caliente, California, with her dogs, Arky and Decoy, who saved her life.

 hspace= Poisoned by Anthrax
Casey Chamberlain, 30, and her former boss Tom Brokaw near NBC-TV in New York City.

 hspace= A Home Lost to Foreclosure
Janelle Pereira, 24, with her husband, Scott, and son Joseph, 5, in front of the home they lost in Atwater, California.

Photos: Rob Howard; Diana Koenigsberg


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