Every stage of life involves some sort of transition. Whether it’s buying a new home, the ‘empty nest’ when the children move out, or retirement, there is a psychological shift that takes place. Consider these transitions:
- Passage to Adulthood – Quinceanera, Bar or Bat Mitzvah or a 21st Birthday
- Starting a Family
- Having a Child Start Kindergarten
- Starting a New Job/Career
- Being Diagnosed with a Chronic Illness
- Moving to a New House/City/Country
The common element among these is they all represent change, and change can be very uncomfortable for many individuals. Think of the last time you changed your hairstyle or bought a new car. These somewhat minor changes can be difficult, or they can be exciting. Your perception of change will determine how you see them and what your experience will be. You may find that it’s a fearful and lonely process or an exciting and vibrant experience. With significant life transitions, you’ll likely experience all of these emotions, and more.
When you think of transition in this way you can see that it’s almost like a grief process. It is a way of mourning the old way of living and adjusting to the new. It’s not uncommon to find that, even as we experience positive life transitions, there is still a loss that represents the change in your life. While having a child is a joyous occasion, at some point in your pregnancy, you may see it as a loss of freedom or independence. Graduation from college is exciting and promising, a transition into adulthood. It is also the end of our youth, which brings a new sense of responsibility, a sometimes sad and scary proposition.
As you move through life’s transitions, it is helpful to pay attention to a few things. Managing stress is especially important at this time. Take care of yourself in the same way that you’d take care of a loved one who has lost something. Identify what you’re losing. Through this process, you gain a greater awareness and understanding about yourself and/or a loved one. Talk to others about the emotions that you are experiencing. It’s common to focus on the excitement and joy, which is important. But do take some time to acknowledge the ambivalence and sadness, as well.