When we’re facing a serious illness, either for ourselves or for someone we love, hope can be a tricky thing. We’re encouraged to be hopeful because, of course, the opposite is to be hopeless, and who wants to do that?

We don’t want to “give up hope,” but if a diagnosis is terminal, what exactly is it we’re hoping for? Miracle recoveries happen, it’s true, but they’re rare. It’s not a great idea to put all your eggs in that basket because that might not be where things go.

This hopeful/hopeless dynamic sets up a kind of false either/or. In fact, life is more complex than that. I have a beautiful prayer that I share with my clients, and it allows them to hold the situation in a more both/and way.

The prayer has two parts. The first is, “If there is any way that this difficult fate can be avoided, please, please, let that be my path.” The second part of the prayer is, “If this hard thing cannot be avoided, if this is my destiny, please, please, give me the skills and the strength to meet it with grace and healing.”

This allows us to hold both of these and instead of being hopeful or hopeless, we’re open-eyed, we’re realistic, and we’re prepared for whatever comes.