You never imagined that this would happen to YOU. You never envisioned your life as a single parent, a young widow, a victim of domestic violence or a person with a life threatening disease. Handling unexpected changes in life can be overwhelming.
Some changes will be for a season, and you can see that there is an end in sight. But for this post I wanted to talk about those events which happen that change us forever. They redefine the way we see ourselves. They make us think of our life in terms of part one and part two. Before and After.
Sometimes they can come upon us slowly, like waking up one day and realizing that you are raising your grandkids. Other times they enter fiercely and abruptly. So how do we handle these unexpected, unwelcome changes?
5 Tips to Handling Unexpected Changes in Life
- Give yourself time to process. Time really does help us do a better job of processing events. Try to stay in the present, think about what has happened and then stop when you begin to feel overloaded. Each day will bring a better understanding of what your new reality is and what you need to do. Your mind can’t take everything in at one time so don’t push yourself to try to figure all the details out “right now”.
- Give yourself room to grieve. We live in a country that is all about moving forward and rebuilding. That’s great, but sometimes we need to stop and grieve. I always cringe when I hearing rousing speeches, literally the day after a tragic event, saying how “we will overcome and become stronger because of this”. I hope that is true, but right now…right now I need to stop and grieve the loss. How can we truly move forward without first accepting that a loss has occurred. If your spouse has left you or a tragic accident has taken place, I have no doubt you will survive, but first you may need to be still and quiet. So don’t feel rushed along by others, well-meaning as they may be, to jump right back in to rebuild your life before you have accepted that part of your old life is gone.
- Do the next thing. What small goal do you need to set for yourself for today? In keeping with the idea that you should give yourself time to slowly process, break down your to-do list. Do you just need to rest and cry today? Do you need to call and make an apt to seek legal advice? Should you find a support group online or in your area for those facing similar circumstances?
In 2016, I experienced another medical event with my heart. And after, 8 years I was given a radically different diagnosis from the earlier one I had been led to believe. My mind was reeling! How could this be? What is this condition SCAD…and why does it have such an ugly name (ok…yes, I did think that totally frivolous thought in the middle of crying!). So, I set a small goal of reading about it and looking it up for just 20 minutes a day. Focusing on all that medical information and hearing about others stories still felt stressful. My body needed to be focusing on resting and taking care of my household. Placing this small guideline for myself allowed me space to both heal and begin to grasp my new reality.
- Forgive. Sometimes the events that have played out in our life are beyond our control, but often there is some element that we believe we did control. Did you jump into that relationship too quickly ignoring the warning bells going off in your head? Do you wish you had gone to the doctor sooner? Do you yearn for another opportunity to go back in time and listen to what your spouse or teen wasn’t saying? It is such a painful place to be, wishing and playing “if only’s” over and over in your mind.
While it is necessary to think of these regrets and losses, you cannot stay here if you ever want to move beyond merely surviving. Growth requires good soil to put down new roots.
A life filled to the brim with regrets and bitterness is not suitable for healthy new growth.
So whether it is forgiving yourself or letting go of the need to get even with someone else you see as responsible for your loss, it is a choice. Forgiveness is not about saying what you did or what someone else did is ok. It is an act whereby you choose to not allow bitterness and revenge to rule your life. Instead choose to put our own health and healing first.
- Step forward into healing and growth. As I mentioned some change is so dramatic there is no going back. And the thought of moving forward and leaving your old reality behind is painful. But there will come a time when you realize it is time to take a small step of faith forward. When it is time to move, do it! If you ignore those small opportunities to propel yourself forward you may become stagnant.
Don’t be afraid to find some positives about your new situation.
At 25, I found myself a single parent and living in a small town no one has ever heard. NOT my original plan!!
But, I knew it was time to start putting down roots for my family. I found an apartment and a church family. As I built a new life, I found healthy friendships and mentors, learned how to be a better parent and established boundaries in my life that enabled me to make better choices in the future about money, relationships and my emotional health.
Growth can be hard work and those years were tough. However, there were lots of positives that came from this time of growth.
Most of us avoid change but it is inevitable. So if you are in the midst of intense season of change remember to keep a few things in mind.
- Give yourself time to process.
- Give yourself room to grieve.
- Do the next thing.
- Step forward into healing and growth.
And hold onto your hope. Hope that from that scorched place in your life, life will spring!
Heather B. says
I truly admire your deliberate effort you always seem to give to focusing on your rest and your family. And I’m also so thankful that God brought both of our families to this little town to put down roots, although in our younger years, I’m sure neither of us would’ve imagined all of this being part of our plans.
Thanks, Heather! It is so important to give ourselves space to heal and process. I’m so glad that you are here in this neck of the woods too:)