Adjusting to Significant Life Transitions
“The only constant in life is change.” — Heraclitus
Life transitions are inherently stressful. These are life changing events that cause us to re-examine our present sense of being. Transitions can be predictable—such as marriage, retirement, or children leaving home and they can often be unpredictable—such as a move, an accident, or a loss. Even predictable transitions, ones that we initiate ourselves, can be difficult to navigate emotionally. We leave behind what was known and familiar and step into the unknown. It’s a state of being in between what was and what will be!
Transition is not simply a change. As William Bridges explains it, “Transition is not just a nice way to say change. It is the inner process through which people come to terms with a change, as they let go of the way things used to be and reorient themselves to the way that things are now.” He identifies three stages of transition:
An ending or loss
Severing connections and letting go
A new beginning is found
Everyone moves through the transition phases at different speeds. Each of the stages can be associated with certain difficult emotions: grief, anxiety, self-doubt, restlessness, emptiness, confusion. It is also very common to experience a mixture of many of these feelings, which can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. How we navigate through the period of transition can determine our future.
Professional help can be an important anchor in navigating the emotional challenges of transitions and offer a safe environment to explore and address difficult feelings and chart the course through this period.