Transitions are inherently challenging. We go through so many in the human lifespan that we often don’t stop to acknowledge that they’re happening. Whether it’s marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, menopause, or death, how we traverse these changes will not only determine how we’ll come out the other side, but how well we’ll manage the inevitable next challenge life throws our way.
The Hardest Transitions
Sometimes we can plan for our life transitions because they’re predictable and universal, but the harder transitions are the ones that seem to come out of nowhere. Feeling unprepared for life’s curve balls can lead to overwhelm, depression, and stress.
The cornerstone of every transition is change. Change can be uncomfortable and we often resist it. Sometimes, we tell ourselves that change is bad and we delude ourselves into believing that we have control over the changes that happen in our life. This is an elusive sense of control, an attempt to alleviate the fear that underlies the uncertainty we so often have to face as part of a life transition. It’s counter-intuitive to move into the unknown, as it can feel like walking blindly around in a pitch-black room. Transitions can leave us feeling decentered, frightened, and alone.
Feeling stuck and paralyzed during a transition is common. We freeze up out of fear, making it impossible to move forward or to go back. We find ourselves in a state of immobility at a time when we need to be moving through. It’s also common to only focus on getting from point A to point B, without any attention to the process in between. A “wake me when it’s over” attitude is not productive because the experiences that happen during the transition lead to growth and an adaptive outcome. Transitions are an opportunity for personal insight and knowledge. We know what we’re capable of when we transition through a challenging time and we learn that we can survive things that feel like they will kill us.
We Can Survive the Worst
Through life’s challenges we learn that we can survive the worst. We gain the wisdom we need and we learn to tolerate uncertainty. Most importantly, we learn to be patient and to relinquish control over the outcome.
Here are some tips for moving through a life transition in a healthy and adaptive way:
Practicing mindfulness – staying in the present moment – is a great tool for life transitions. When life becomes challenging, our tendency is to go to negative future fantasies or to long for the past. The power of now can be very grounding and helpful when things become uncertain. The one thing you can always come back to is your breath. You can be sure it will always be there when you need it.
Surrounding yourself with supportive, loving people during a transition is essential. Many of us tend to become isolated, to power through difficult life situations and forget to reach out to others. Joining a support group or simply calling a friend can be extremely helpful when things feel overwhelming.
Many of us forget to treat ourselves with the same understanding and compassion we would show others. Many transitions are painful, making it important for you to remember to be kind and gentle with yourself.
Transitions almost always involve loss, and most loss requires a period of grieving. We often think of grief as a negative experience, but it’s actually an essential aspect of moving forward. Give yourself the opportunity to grieve, and consider seeking professional help to ease the process.
About the Authors
Allison Pescosolido, M.A. and Andra Brosh Ph.D. are divorce recovery specialists working at Divorce Detox (www.divorcedetox.com), the leader in divorce recovery. Their programs provide the tools, courage, fortitude and inspiration to transform the way people think and feel about their divorce. They help individuals transition through separation and divorce to rebuild their lives. Allison and Andra understand the pain of divorce and see divorce as an opportunity for personal growth, wisdom and a happier life.