Change is hard no matter what but it’s especially difficult when it’s something that is happening to you that you are not choosing or it’s a repercussion or consequence of a prior choice you made. It can even feel like punishment.
Trusting the process of change is scary. You have a choice as to how you will respond to it but depending on the type of change and the severity of it, it can feel impossible to respond to it with any kind of grace. Feelings and emotions get in the way and influence our reaction to change. If the change in any way triggers past pain, fear, or insecurity then our reaction to it can become quite intense and long lasting.
The stages of grief can be applied to the experience of change. Grief is not an experience limited to losing a loved one through death but includes any kind of loss that is difficult for you to adjust to.
At first, you may be in a state of shock that the change even occurred. Even if it was something you anticipated happening it can still shock and shake you to your core. The feelings of shock can be quite scary. Fear and dismay can take over and suddenly you find yourself walking around a frazzled and fearful bundle of emotional mess. You don’t know what to do because you haven’t even had a chance or been able to process this happening. Perhaps, in order not to go crazy you turn to denial. Denial is an effective coping mechanism but it typically does not have long serving rewards. Denying that the event even happened, denying the full expected outcome, and just a flat out refusal to mentally entertain the possibility of it all edges out the healthy emotional healing work and halts any kind of healing acceptance. But that is typically a temporary stage. Although one can stay here quite a while, most do not.
We then move into a fluctuation of all the stages: anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This is like finding yourself on a ship out to sea when suddenly a storm approaches and you’re forced to navigate the rough waters and high winds. Where the heck did this storm come from! Prayers are conjured up, even in the least spiritually inclined person. It’s not pleasant and you want off!
On any given day you can experience a thick spread of all of these stages that make you feel as though the storm is yet again right over your head. You get to a point where you feel like you want to just give up and give in.
Your mind swings like a pendulum from being angry that the change even occurred at all to looking for someone or something to blame- and in the next breath want to bargain with your higher power or the people involved in this change for it all to go back to the way it was before. There is a desperation that is tangible here. You search for what you have to offer in exchange for such sorrow… ready to hand over anything to make it all go back to the way it was.
Realizing that it can’t go back or won’t be going back, the depression sets in. A deep sadness for all that was lost to the change becomes so heavy. Memories flood your mind. The most cherished memories of “before” are haunting you- torturing you even. You may find yourself getting mad at the mind for constantly reminding you of what you had that is now gone. Depression can drag you so far down that you begin to feel as though you don’t care about anything anymore. What good is life without the thing you lost?
Our minds are good at talking and telling us stories. The story my go like this: life isn’t worth living now. It’s not the same. I hate this change. I hate everything because everything reminds me of what I’ve lost! Total depression.
And then as if out of nowhere the thoughts become less frequent. You’re tired. You’re ready to just accept whatever. You realize there is nothing that can make life go back to the way it was so why keep fighting. What is there to fight for anymore anyways. So much energy has been expressed throughout all of these stages that you are left exhausted and ready to surrender. Totally surrender.
Then, like the sun peeking through the stormy clouds you begin to remember what it is like to feel alive again. You begin to remember that life offers other things to find joy in and maybe, just maybe, you begin to open your mind and heart to the possibility of finding that joy for yourself once more. You may reconnect with your self, your purpose in life and find a reservoir deep within that provides strength and courage to move on.
Everyone experiences grief differently and at a different pace. Life is a culmination of changes that we are all asked to adapt. Losing what we love, or have become accustomed to feels like a death. Finding the grace in grief is key to navigating the rough waters of loss. It is a storm we cannot avoid but can prepare for to a certain degree. Grief is a storm we have to brace ourselves for and hold on tightly to the most stable ideas,belief systems,and even people to help us make it through. We even need to hold on tightly to all the amazing qualities we have inside. Something reminds us, even when we can’t fully hear over the thunder and lightening, that this too shall pass and we will once again see the sun.
Change is hard. Change is constant. Change is necessary. Change is adaptable. Change is transformative. Change is an undeniable part of this existence.
Unfortunately, there is no classroom except the classroom of life which feels more like the school for hard knocks- learn it as you go and get resourceful!. Which never fully made any sense to me because life is like one giant grief fest that you would think there would be more preparation for.. but maybe that would ruin the mystery and we would be bored out of our minds!
But, it is important for you to know that you are resilient. You have within you the wherewithal to withstand the constant change life has to offer. As you go along in life- make sure to collect those things that serve you and nourish your soul. Those things that bring you comfort for which to turn to when the seas get rocky once again. And if nothing else is comforting to you during this time of change, rest in the knowledge that nothing lasts forever and that even these intense feelings of sorrow and pain will fade away and you’ll once again feel the light of day kissing your skin ever so gently as if to remind you that there is goodness and there is love and there is hope for a better day.