I remember the epic journey from my small country-home-town in my little Ford Laser, driving 900 kilometres across the country to the new, much less familiar regional city I had eagerly committed to making my home in for at least the next few years. This was a transition I was more than excited about. Here was my chance to really begin my life! As a young woman I had earned my university degree as a teacher and had my heart set on making my way in the world, seeking out new, exciting adventures and making a difference along the way. What better way to begin such an adventure than to move to a place where I knew absolutely no-one, to embark on my newest endeavour.
I remember the mix of emotions as I said ‘goodbye’ to my community of family and friends in the weeks leading up to my grand departure. I was definitely excited, but somewhere deep down in my young heart and mind I was warding off those menacing thoughts of how I would be starting all over again in a place where I knew no-one. The slate was wiped. What if this didn’t work out. No one knew my (very large) family. I had no ‘contacts’. No one knew my story. I was literally starting over! So much excitement and opportunity on the one hand. Potentially so much hard work ahead.
Over the course of the following year I experienced a simultaneous, tumultuous grief/growth process. As the weeks wore on, I found myself missing the old, familiar faces and places terribly. I spent many moments crying, feeling lonely and isolated and wondering if I had made the right decision to move. And yet while the learning curve I was on was incredibly challenging, it was so exhilarating (on many levels)!
This was but one of many transitional moments in my life that has become strangely familiar!
“So what have you learnt from such moments?” I hear you ask.
Along my journey I’ve learnt that grief is not a cut and dried one-time event only connected to losing a loved one through death or separation. It has become more and more evident over the years that transitions such as the one I’ve just described are fraught with tension and grief, all the while closely linked with incredible new growth.
I have observed many people in my world navigate transitions including facing redundancy and having to find new employment; starting over in a foreign country where the language and culture is unfamiliar; becoming ’empty-nesters’ when children leave home; reaching retirement and searching for purpose in the next season; an individual’s role changing within their family unit; remarrying and becoming a blended family; becoming a first-time parent. These are to name but a few. Some have been navigated with tremendous precision, while others have faced monumental challenges along the way. Each with varying outcomes.
While I refer to grief being a part of the transition journey, I am not suggesting that all transition is difficult, bad, or involves pain and devastation. Much of an individual’s journey will depend on the type of transition being encountered and the perspective taken throughout that time. Some people will transition with few problems, while others will find themselves getting stuck along the way.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned through the variety of transitions I’ve personally experienced and those I’ve observed others journey through, is that it is much more satisfying to EMBRACE THE PROCESS (with all of its challenges) than to deny it, avoid it or shut it down. Choosing any of the latter will do nothing except delay the inevitable – going around that perpetual mountain again…and again…and again!
Where grief IS present in transition ie where confusion, fear, shock, denial or blame are key players, then a grief process is sure to follow. (You can read more about the grief process in my previous blog “Seasons: The Grief Journey”). Again, the duration of such a process will be unique to each individual.
One of the realisations I eventually came to myself is this:
“THINGS MAY NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!” and
“HOW CAN I LEARN TO BE OKAY WITH THAT?”
Which is very contrasting to the question I had asked myself on prior occasions, which went more like this:
“Why? Why me? What am I going to do now?! What can I do to salvage what I’ve lost? How am I ever going to get over this! If only…”
This kind of questioning shouts helplessness, fear and victim-thinking (when moving on from that type of thinking is delayed or avoided for any reason).
The first question, however, brings with it a sense of acceptance and finding a solution, a way forward that will bring growth rather than stagnation.
Transition is a very natural, normal part of life. Without it, life as we know it would not exist! None of us can avoid it (although many may try). Some transitions have a way of surprising us. Others we may be able to plan for and embrace with more ease. It is usually when we make the choice (often sub-consciously) to fight the process in one way or another that we find ourselves in an enduring battle with a relentless enemy.
So how do you recognise when you’re in such a transition?
Often, the transition is quite obvious. Changes have taken place in your world, either obviously or subtly, and those changes require you to make some readjustments in your world. Perhaps it’s a readjustment in your role or routine; in the practical functioning of day-to-day life; in your financial situation. Or most likely, a readjustment is required in your thinking, your mindset, your perspective. On occasions the transition may be less obvious, in which case it may take time before the need for adjustment is recognised. In such cases, it is imperative that the grief process being navigated is not avoided or shut-down. Moving forward from that place is slow and painful (and I’m speaking from experience!)
How do you embrace the transition?
It would be so wonderful if there was one simple answer to this question wouldn’t it!
Can I encourage you, regardless of your transition, to firstly invite someone you trust deeply into this process to encourage and support you through it.
Secondly, identify where the readjustments need to be made. What thinking, mindset or perspective may need shifting? (You may require some help with this one – that trusted friend? A professional counsellor or coach?) What practical changes need to take place in this transition?
Next, make a commitment to yourself and to those you love in your world, to allow yourself to journey through the transition with its readjustments, encouraging others to do likewise, embracing the difficult moments along with the wins.
Sound easy!?! Perhaps not! However, determining in your heart and mind that this is something you WILL get through, embracing the process despite your current circumstances, you WILL make it! And can I say that most often on the other side, there is a sense of renewal, a sense of knowing and understanding yourself (and perhaps others) a little more deeply, a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment in knowing you’ve done the ‘hard stuff’, you’ve faced the challenges head-on AND survived…perhaps even found yourself flourishing like never before.
Remember this is your journey. Be encouraged. Regardless of your transition. Allow others to journey with you through your transition process where you need to. Don’t be afraid to face the ‘hard stuff’. It is here that the most growth takes place.
EMBRACE THE PROCESS.
You are worth it!
With you on this journey,