Life transitions

Life brings with it many transitions, some planned others not so. Transitions will always include a period of adjustment to our new way of being and new circumstances.

Some transitions can be very difficult:

  • bereavement - losing a loved one to death
  • losing our home
  • losing our finances
  • losing our job perhaps through redundancy
  • losing our health
  • losing close friendships 
  • the breakdown of relationships at work
  • children leaving home
  • the enduring ill health of a loved one and caring for them
  • caring for a loved one with addictions
  • divorce, separation or other relationship breakdown
  • retirement - often our identity is linked with our jobs.

Clearly this list is not exhaustive. When we lose our lives and routines as we have known them, we can be thrown into a situation which is very anxiety-provoking. This can strike at the core of our very identity. We may wonder who we are if we are no longer someone's wife or husband or our children don't need us in the same way anymore. We may describe ourselves with our job title or as someone's mother or father. So how do we separate out who we are from our roles?

Even if we have planned our retirement and think that it will be lovely and we can do what we want, the reality is that a period of adjustment will still be needed - particularly if we have left our job on a high and are very excited about all the things we are going to do once we don't have to go to work. In addition when people have worked at a company most of their working life it can be a big shock to find that they are being made redundant in spite of their loyalty.

If we are looking after a family member with enduring health difficulties it can be very easy to lose ourselves or think that we don't matter. It is so important to take care of ourselves first. We may think that is impossible or selfish. However if we don't, we are in danger of burn-out due to stress and anxiety.

Perhaps we think that no-one can take care of our loved one as well as we can or that there isn't anyone else who can help. It is crucial to reach out for help both for yourself and for your loved one.
Self-care and self-compassion matter.

Our sense of self is really important and we can find that we have lost ourselves or lost our voice. We don't want to complain because we think that others are more important than we are. The thing is that if we don't find our voice we will push our needs and emotions down where they will simmer until we can no longer contain them. We may then find that anger and resentment which has been suppressed begins to surface.

It can be anxiety provoking to find that the life that we had planned has changed beyond recognition.
We may feel helpless or powerless and find ourselves thinking that we can't possibly cope. It is important to process the feelings of shock, anger, anxiety, resentment, sadness (or perhaps other feelings).

When we begin to value ourselves and see that we have intrinsic worth it is possible to begin to think about what we can do towards building a new future for ourselves. Often we get stuck with thoughts and words like 'I can't' or 'I 'don't know how to.' If we begin with what we can do, we will gradually find that we become empowered and strengthened. We will find that we are more resilient than we first thought. There is no need to feel that you have to 'be strong' or 'just get on with it.' It takes courage to ask for help and is not a sign of weakness.

With some transitions such as a death there are recognised rituals and support from other people. In other transitions such as retirement this is not necessarily the case - we may not recognise that we are grieving. In all transitions there are many feelings to be processed before we can accept and come to terms with our new situation.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Godalming GU7 & Weybridge KT13
Written by Stella Goddard, BA (Hons) Registered MBACP (Accred)
Godalming GU7 & Weybridge KT13

I have extensive experience working with adult individuals and couples from many different backgrounds.

Some of the Life Transitions I work with are: death, chronic ill-health, caring for others with mental and physical ill-health, redundancy, divorce, separation, children leaving home.

BA (Hons)
Registered MBACP (Accred)

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