What are your thoughts on this meme? Does it feel as if the ships are escaping a storm or are about to be shipwrecked because they left the confines of safety? Do you see it as an opportunity to escape the confines of the frame, or does it fill you with fear?
How does this translate to what is going on in your own life? Is it filled with chaos, turmoil, fear? Or excitement, growth, curiosity?
Life transitions can create all the above.
What is a life transition? A transition is the liminal space between the completion or ending of one way of life and the new life that is in the process of forming.
The following six elements are inherent in a Life transition: reorientation, personal growth, authentication, creativity, spirituality, renewal. A life transition can be thought of as the closing of one door and the opening of another. As our old life decomposes a new life begins to form and grow from the old. Life may be giving you an opportunity to live outside the box and escape the confines of a life that has grown too small.
On one side of the spectrum, transitions can be a time of fluctuating emotions, loss, grief, depression, anxiety, hopelessness, anger, and confusion among others. On the other, they can become a time of anticipation, excitement, hope, and vision for a better future.
Whether your life transition is due to divorce, a significant break-up, sudden loss, a life altering medical or mental health diagnosis, or other unexpected event, you are not alone during this season of transition and change. When it feels as if life has turned on you, pulled the rug out beneath you, it is normal to resist and cling to the familiar, the way things were, and reject how they currently are.
Life transitions can be opportunities cloaked in loss.
In that loss are the seeds of a more authentic life. Initially it may not feel like life will get better. However, life is presenting you with opportunities of personal growth, insight, and deeper self-understanding. It encourages you to discover hidden or unrecognized strengths, and uncover reservoirs of courage.
It is asking if you are ready to embrace creativity and live your most authentic life by letting go of roles or personas that have become too constricting.
It is offering a new expanded view of your past, present, and future. By looking through a sacred spiritual lens you find the common threads and themes that have run throughout.
It also renews. The break-down of your old life becomes the fuel that energizes your new life, if you allow it to. Just like a phoenix that is reborn and rises out of the ashes, so too can you.
Life transitions allow you to expand your belief about yourself and your capabilities.
As you mourn and heal from the loss there will come a time when you are able to manage the emotional fallout. This enables you to choose a new perspective and open new doors of opportunity because you are now able to recognize and act on them.
Coming To Terms With The Reality of Your Loss
During a life transition often there is an initial period of shock and disbelief especially if it was sudden. It might feel like waves of grief close over you and you are left gasping for air. This is a normal response to loss.
There may be moments when the shock and disbelief lift and you experience emotional pain, sometimes accompanied with physical discomfort. Our brain and body have mechanisms in place that protect us from sudden shocking events. For example if you feel spacey, disconnected from your life and the people in it, and want to withdraw, these are normal responses to loss.
Experiencing the pain when you are flooded with emotions can be difficult. However, allowing yourself to recognize and feel them in smaller doses either through psychosocial support with a professional or working with your body on the somatic level, allows the energy of grief to move.
Sometimes loss may require continually reorienting to changes in your body. If you are facing medical issues it might require a new diet, adding in an exercise routine, taking medication and managing side effects. It may require reorienting friendships that may fade due to divorce or the ending of a significant relationship. All the above may need multiple adjustments over time as you settle into a new state of normal.
Personal growth is the tool that allows reorientation to be long lasting. Learning healthy tools allows you to relinquish unhelpful thought patterns, habits and behaviors. It offers you the opportunity to develop new supportive skills. It also allows you a more complete realization and acceptance regarding your loss.
Remember, it’s okay if you need to take a life transition one day, one step, one moment, or even one breath at a time.
Pause. Rest. Repeat.
Facing and Grieving the Loss
Facing the loss can be difficult. However, the only way out of grief, is to go through. When you are able to allow yourself to go through the multitude of emotions you experience and actively mourn the loss, this helps prevent the emotions from becoming stuck.
Mourning is a verb.
There is no right or wrong way to mourn your loss. Just like each individual has their own set of fingerprints, each individual will mourn in ways that are specific and right for them. Some might take a more physical route to mourning. For example working in the garden, painting, sculpting, exercising. Others might need more introverted ways to mourn; journal, contemplation, or prayer. There is also no timetable to mourning a loss. It takes as long as it needs to take.
Support your needs.
Allow yourself to cry, rest if you are tired, say “no” if you are not up to participating in social events. Eat healthy nourishing foods and get plenty of fresh air each day. Avoid unhealthy coping skills such as drinking alcohol, using drugs, or binge eating.
If you need some alone time, that is normal for you. Claim it without guilt or shame. If you need to be around people, that is normal for you. Reach out for support from caring, compassionate family and friends. Join a grief group, see a professional to talk about your loss and its impact on your life.
It is important during this time to remember to be gentle and kind with yourself. Keep yourself at the top of your priority list and do some form of self-care daily.
Adapting To A New Life: Finding Your Authenticity and Creativity
Life transitions can shake us up and alter the view of our world. What once was, is now gone. We have entered into a liminal state between what was and what is yet to be. Entering into this cocoon like state allows us to begin the work of transformation, healing, and inner growth. This is where we mourn the dreams the loss prevents from manifesting. As we work through the pain by reorienting, growing, and finding our authenticity, the sharp edges begin to soften and shift.
Finding What is Meaningful in Work and Relationships,
We also discover and begin to fill the void with what is meaningful. Were you living your previous life through your most authentic self? For example your job or career ended but you were unfulfilled. You could do the work by rote and left at the end of the day uninspired. The loss could be a wake-up call to give yourself permission to discover or uncover what you are passionate about.
Speaking for myself, I have always been interested in psychology. When my son turned eighteen I left a career path I had been on for a decade and returned to college. This decision required a tremendous amount of sacrifice. The first was a relationship, then a move out of state leaving behind all family and friends.
However, it was the “right” decision for myself. It was a step in the direction of uncovering my most authentic self. It enabled me to discover what I love and incorporate it in meaningful work.
Adapting to a new life may not be easy. Patience, persistence, a healthy dose of compassion, and the belief you can do it are necessary. As David La Chapelle reminds us, “Allow yourself to be inspired by the stars of your distant longing…”
So my friend, what new tasks and roles do you need to assume, what changes in belief about your abilities need to occur for you to develop a more authentic way of living your new life?
New dreams await you when you are ready and become receptive to them.
Becoming a Spiritual Midwife to Birth Your Authentic Self
Each wave represent an aspect of healing through the grief and loss. As the pain is faced and we move through it, as we reach for growth, health and wholeness, each wave becomes smaller and smaller.
I myself have faced many life altering transitions: divorce, being a single parent, empty nest, returning to college as an adult, moving out of state away from family and friends to attend university, attending graduate school, and career changes. I have experienced the confusion, fear, hesitation, worry, second guessing, even with those transitions that I deemed joyful.
When faced with a life transition it offers the opportunity for us to discover what really matters. The Early Waves are a time of reorienting and learning to cope with the loss. It is a time of coming to terms with our new reality.
The wave of Facing Loss allows us to work through the pain and begin to mourn the loss.
The wave of Adapting presents us with a choice: to adapt to the loss by growing through and discovering our most authentic self or become stuck. Also when we choose growth it helps soften the sharp pain of grief as we adjust to our new life.
As you can see the more we reach for growth, integration, and healing the waves become smaller until finally the ocean swell of Growing Through arrives. This is where the loss allows us to tap into our innate creativity. It is the time for re-evaluation, rediscovering what we deem important, what we want to keep in our life, what is in need of shedding.
Eric Fromm once said, “The whole of life of the individual is nothing but the process of giving birth to himself: indeed we should be fully born, when we die, although it is the tragic fate of most individuals to die before they are born.”
I believe he is referring to our authentic self. This is the final element in a Life Transition. We become a spiritual midwife to birth our authentic self. Once we have claimed and are in sync with our authentic self, our old identity and limiting beliefs have been transformed. This releases the energy that had been trapped in the structure of our old life. The energy that is released renews and energizes us.
Keep in mind the journey of a life transition has no time table. There are no specific “stages of grief” to go through. Congratulate yourself, honor your choice of choosing growth and moving forward in your life by allowing it to expand. Remember to breathe and always, always, be kind to yourself.
This poem below caught my attention over a decade ago. It became a beacon, guiding me to the dream of doing work I love. The life transitions I have experienced have required I shed the limiting beliefs I held about myself and grow into more than I knew I could become. In hindsight, I am grateful for my own life transitions because without them I would not have been guided to find my calling, help others find theirs, or write about it here.
I hope you are able to find some useful suggestions and perhaps understand your own transition better, knowing that ultimately you too will come through to the other side.
Finding Her Rhythm by Shiloh Sophia McCloud
Finding her rhythm had been a long and arduous journey.
She traveled beyond the streets of oppression,
the valley of in-authenticity,
the forest of despair,
the river of regret,
and the desert of self-judgement.
She crossed the sea of change,
the mountains of transformation
and finally she arrived!
In the meadow of possibility
she claimed her life song.
Article © 2/2017 Liisa Gavlick, M.A. All Rights Reserved