Sunday was a day of sparkling sunshine. The colors of spring had not yet arrived, but the sounds of birds coming home and a chorus of frogs croaking atop their lily pads was holding the promise of new beginning… our transition from the gray chill of winter to the vibrant newness of spring.
How disappointed and dreary I felt when the very next day was cold, dark and foreboding. Rain was falling and the best I could think of doing was skipping the day and getting back into bed!
It can be like that when we think we are finally seeing the light at the end of our tunnel of transition, only to be reminded that our work is not done and we are not home free!
Take Anna’s situation for example. She has come through a year of major change; divorce and a career move at the same time. Just when she thinks she has crossed her transition finish line and is beginning to find her new grounding, worries about a developing health issue has her tumbling backwards into fear, stress and anxiety. How will she handle this new unknown alone, without her husband?
Anna feels hit anew with the uncertainty and fear of yet another transition, one not of her choosing. It is human nature to hold expectations that we can order and organize our lives into predictable and safe structures. Unfortunately, this is not the reality.
As much as we might not want to recognize that change is a given, all sorts of transition are an every day, week, month and yearly occurrence. We are transitioning all the time from one thought, activity or state of being. What produces the most fear for us in those larger life transitions are the ones where we feel surprised, overwhelmed or stuck in not knowing what we will do or how we will handle what has happened.
Traveling to “why me?” in such circumstances creates a victim mentality that will not be helpful in dealing with that new unknown. The danger for all of us when we ask this question “why me” is the likelihood of getting stuck there and not being able to gather our resources of resilience to work our way through the transition.
Anna will need to process what she is feeling and then gather her current support system around her to face this new challenge. In doing this she will empower herself to dig deep inside for the strength and courage she needs to face what lies ahead. Instead of being immobilized by “Why me?”, Anna can focus on making how she will deal with this unexpected life change, her choice.
It is over a year and a half since Heather’s husband died. She has worked hard to go through her process of grieving. Heather has come in touch with her feelings of loss, loneliness and letting go. She has begun to return to being able to find some laughter and joy in her life. One day she was enjoying the warmth of feeling alive again…And then… the next day she felt like she had tripped and fallen back into that dark hole of grief.
For Heather it is memory and everyday events that had renewed the mourning of her loss. The triggers that rekindle these emotions of grief can be so subtle that we don’t see them coming. They are a signal that our grieving is not done and there is more work for us.
This return of sadness in the challenge of living with loss tells us how much we’ve been affected by a relationship or event. It is Heather’s love for her husband, their marriage and the memories they made together that has touched her. By honoring what has come up and bringing self-compassion and understanding to it, Heather can come to know that this is the process of grieving, not a regression. She can learn that the sadness that comes up for her doesn’t mean that she is not healing. Rather it is her path to integrating all of who she has been with who she is yet to become.
If you have just settled into the comfortable feeling of a new status quo after a major life transition and suddenly more change challenges to unsettle all that you have worked so hard for, it is good to keep these things in mind:
1 Life is unpredictable. Our acceptance of that reality is key to how we face the ups and downs of our living. We may be disappointed or resistant to dealing with yet another change, but it is part of our life journey.
2. The emotional “winter” of transition can become the “new beginning and promise of spring”, but all in its own time. It can’t be rushed or coaxed into bloom before it is ready.
3. Our life journey is a process. When we embrace this process through continuously learning about who we are and nurturing our self growth we also grow our abilities to weather whatever storms come our way.
Just as the definition states, transitions are uncomfortable, but they also challenge us and hold the potential for great learning. It is a positive process when we use our resilience, strength and courage to make the journey and find growth and inner meaning along the way.
When I look back and remember the well-being of that sunny Sunday and the blues of that cold and rainy Monday, I know that it is part of the cycle of nature, just as our dealing with the erratic ride of life transitions is part of the cycle of our lives. I remind myself to take extra care to soak up the sun because I know it will be just what I will need to remember when it rains. How about you?