Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Life transitions are initiated by an ending. You move from one stage of life to another. Endings can be sudden, like the breakdown of a relationship or the unexpected death of a loved one.
We see other endings coming. We have time to imagine ourselves in a new situation and ponder the pros and cons of what could happen next. Examples of these endings are getting married, teenagers leaving for college, or moving to another city.
The 5 Stages of Endings
1. Withdrawal: You withdraw from your new life, perhaps even deny it's happening. You long to go back to your old self.
2. De-structure comfort zone: Nothing in your life feels the same. You're uncomfortable. You try to readjust and make space for your new needs.
3. Re-structure of the self: You're not who you used to be. Your role in society or the family unit has changed, e.g. you may have been a parent, partner, teacher. Now that has changed. Who are you now?
4. Confusion: You have difficulty letting go of your old life and embracing the new. You're not sure how to move on.
5. Realisation: You accept you're not the same person you used to be. You realize what parts of yourself you can let go and what parts can carry on.
These stages can be interchanging, overlapping, and can often repeat themselves until you're ready for the next phase. It can be a challenging time. If you're experiencing one of these stages now, you're probably willing it to be over. Extra self-care and patience is needed.
How long do these stages go for? This depends on many factors including;
• Nature of transition
• Acceptance of the ending
• Support network
• Personal motivation
• Ability to cope with change
• Experience in dealing with transition
• Recognize the benefits of change
• Openness to different perspective
Now you have a clearer idea of the stages of transitions, you may be wondering why they are so painful?
The experience of transitioning is like a death. One part of us dies, and a new self emerges. It's painful because we grieve for the loss of the old person, and we don't know how to be in the new one.
We're not taught how to deal with transitions or difficult emotions like despair, anger, guilt, and loneliness. We innately avoid pain, and this is sustained by a culture that sees suffering as a sign of weakness. Fortunately, this is slowly changing.
Accept to be with your emotions, even when they are painful
When you feel these negative feelings, you may think there is something wrong with you.
But there's nothing wrong with you. All emotions have a place within you. And they're there to tell you something:
When we feel foggy or unable to think, our mind is telling us to slow down and take one step at a time. Don't push. Wait. Be patient.
When you feel pain, this is a sign you need to take care of yourself. You may need to cry for hours, go for a walk, or listen to music. Self-soothing is different for everyone.
These activities won't get rid of the pain, but they will help you process it. Listen to the signals your brain is sending your body.
It takes time, but you will feel better. Your pain won't have the same impact it had in the beginning. You will slowly learn how to build a new life and let go of your old one.
Are you going through a life transition? I offer free 30-minute video calls to new clients. Talking helps. Get in touch.